Murder on the Orient Express

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Just after midnight, a snowstorm stops the Orient Express dead in its tracks in the middle of Yugoslavia. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for this time of year. But by morning there is one passenger less. A 'respectable American gentleman' lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside . . . Hercule Poirot is also aboard, having arrived in the nick of time to claim a second-class compartment -- and the most astounding case of his illustrious career.

Curriculet Details
62 Questions
64 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for high school students contains interactive videos exploring topics students may have little familiarity with, like what it means to wind a watch, send a telegraph message, or take a polygraph, as well as annotations describing European culture and history, early 20th century America, and comparisons of British and American spellings of words. Students will explore the themes of revenge and loyalty. The Common Core aligned questions, answers, and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Homework #6

Agatha Christie is a mystery writer. Mysteries have elements of pacing that are necessary to the structure of the story. Watch the video below about pacing and then think about how a mystery writer would use elements such as flashback, foreshadowing, and point of view to establish the appropriate pacing. (This annotation contains a video)
Reading books by Agatha Christie is a terrific way to build your vocabulary! She uses vivid language, but sometimes the words she uses are a bit outdated for today's readers. Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
"Enfin" is the French way to say, "Finally!" or, "At last!" What is revealed to the reader when M. Poirot says this? 
Eggs and coffee is a very light meal for breakfast for someone who is British! Read more about what makes up a full English breakfast then decide if you could make that your regular morning meal! (This annotation contains a link)
Reread the highlighted dialogue then decide how this passage is typical of a mystery. 
The map below outlines the route of the Orient Express. Can you find some of the locations that have been mentioned so far? (This annotation contains an image)

Homework #7

What does M. Bouc mean when he says that M. Poirot is "at the top of the tree nowadays?" 
The phrase, "Eh bien," is the French equivalent of saying, "Well," in English. This phrase appears numerous times in the text, much like we use the word, "Well," to start many sentences in conversational English. Now when you see the phrase, you will be able to substitute in the English equivalent to make the text sound more like what you are accustomed to hearing! 
M. Poirot has just been given another passenger's sleeping compartment on the train. If the other passenger, M. Harris arrives, he will be told that he is too late to have the compartment he reserved. If you were M. Harris, how would you react if you were told that your compartment had been given away because you were too late? Be sure to explain your position fully and use information from the text to illustrate your point. 
Use the dictionary feature to find the definition of "munificent". Then decide on a more easily understood synonym to make better sense of what the author is hinting at here. 

Homework #8

Based on this information, as well as some previous information about M. Bouc, what can you conclude about him? 
Below is a picture of actress Wendy Hiller as she portrayed Princess Dragomiroff in the movie version of this novel. Does her appearance match the written description of her? (This annotation contains an image)
How does the author help you get to know the passengers on the train? 
While $20,000 seems like a lot of money, it becomes more obvious how much it is worth when you calculate the amount it would be in 2014 -- close to $270,000! M. Poirot turned this money down quickly; would you be willing to turn it down? 

Homework #9

Each chapter has a short title. Have you been paying attention to them? If not, consider going back and reviewing the titles of the past three chapters. What purpose do the titles of the chapters serve? How can you make predictions about the storyline by reviewing the chapter titles in the table of contents? Make references to specific chapter titles in your response. 
Is the French used in this novel throwing off your understanding of what is happening? If so, you can use the Google Translate feature to copy the French into one box and get the English translation. (This annotation contains a link)

Homework #10

Which of the following is NOT one of the ways the author is trying to build suspense? 
The passengers are complaining about a delay, which is a common gripe we hear today regarding travel by airplane. Read the article below comparing travel by train to travel by plane, then decide which you would prefer if you had to travel somewhere far away. (This annotation contains a link)
What is M. Poirot implying with this statement to Miss Debenham? 
Sadly, crime is not uncommon in this country. Look at the site below to see some historical data about crimes committed in the United States since 1965. What observations can you make about stabbings compared to other kinds of violent crimes? (This annotation contains a link)
What is "blind" supposed to mean here in the context of the sentence? 
Why is this statement so important? 
Watch the video below to learn more about foreshadowing, which is a staple in the genre of mystery writing. Sometimes you don't realize foreshadowing is happening until later in the book, so don't be afraid to go back and reread passages to help solve the mystery before M. Poirot solves it! (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #11

Persia is now known as Iran. Does what Mr. MacQueen say about his purpose for visiting Persia match up with what you know about Iran? 
Has MacQueen said anything that might make you think he could be M. Ratchett's murderer? Explain your response using examples from the text. 
Which of the following is probably NOT a reason Poirot doesn't want everyone to know about Ratchett's death yet? 
The phrase "hold his tongue" is an idiom -- it's another way to say, "Keep quiet." Below is a link to a site with common idioms and their meanings. Can you find another idiom that would work well in this situation? (This annotation contains a link)

Homework #12

Which of the following is NOT one of the conclusions drawn from examining the body? 
The study of the way a crime occurred is called forensic science. This is what the doctor is doing in describing the stab wounds. You can read more about what forensic scientists do and how to become one at the site below. (This annotation contains a link)
Which of the following clues does NOT point to the theory of there being two murderers? 
Below is a picture of an antique hatbox, used to transport hats without crushing them. Would this hatbox have been of use to M. Poirot? (This annotation contains an image)
Based on what you have read so far, develop your own theory of who the murderer could possibly be. Provide a specific name of the murderer, if you think the person can be named already. Be sure to use details from the text to back up your theory. 

Homework #13

It is possible that the author was influenced by another famous historical kidnapping -- the Lindbergh kidnapping. Read about it below and the look for similarities in the fictional Armstrong kidnapping recounted in this chapter.  (This annotation contains a link)
How do you know that M. Poirot seems somehow suspicious of the actual time of the crime being indicated by the watch? 
Quiz: The Facts 

Homework #15

If you have never travelled by train, especially overnight, then you might have a hard time imagining what a train compartment looks like. The picture below shows a modern sleep compartment on a European train. Do you think this would be a comfortable way to travel? (This annotation contains an image)
Why did M. Poirot ask what M. Ratchett's exact words were if he already knew what he said? 
In case you're not sure what a kimono looks like, you can see a picture below. It is a distinctive piece of clothing. Can you see why it is so memorable to the people on the train? (This annotation contains an image)
Do you think the wagon lit conductor could be the murderer? Why or why not? Explain your answer with details from the text. 

Homework #16

MacQueen is making reference to execution in the electric chair. You can read a short history of the electric chair at the website below. At the time it was first used, it was considered a more humane method of execution than the other method, hanging. What do you think? Is electrocution a more merciful way to die than hanging? (This annotation contains a link)
What alibi does M. MacQueen have to distance himself from being a suspect in the murder of his boss? 

Homework #17

Use the Define feature to look at the definitions of "valet." Then decide which definition best fits the context of this character. What do you think some of the valet's duties would have been? 
What does this information do to the theory that M. Ratchett was drugged? 
Chicago has some of the most iconic architecture and one of the most picturesque skylines in all of America. Here is a glimpse at famous Lake Shore Drive in the 1920's. From what you know of Chicago, what similarities and differences do you see in the picture and current-day Chicago? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following could make the valet a suspect in the murder? 

Homework #18

Earlier, you learned about dialect and how the use of French words and phrases in this text were examples of dialect. You see other examples of dialect when the Americans speak, as in this example when Mrs. Hubbard pronounces the word "very" as "vurry." You have also seen American characters pronounce the name of the city Paris as "Parrus." Can you guess why the author wrote the name of the city this way for the American characters? 
An anti-climax is a disappointing change in action or a sudden change in action to something meaningless. How is it an anti-climax that there was no man standing there when the light was turned on? 
A sponge bag is a British term for a bag used to carry personal items such as a toothbrush, soap, and other personal items. What do we call that in the United States? 
Which of the following is NOT a characteristic of Mrs. Hubbard? 
M. Ratchett's snoring might have been a nuisance to Mrs. Hubbard, but snoring can be serious! Do you snore or does someone you know snore? if so, check out these tips to stop snoring. (This annotation contains a link)

Homework #19

Which of the following is likely NOT a reason M. Poirot wants to interview the Swedish woman? 
The concept of winding a watch probably doesn't make much sense to you, but winding used to be the way to provide "power" to your watch so it would keep accurate time! Watch the short video below to learn about the different kids of watches then think about what might be some advantages to having a watch that needs to be wound instead of having one that is battery powered. (This annotation contains a video)
Think back to your previous prediction about who might be the murderer. Who do you now think could be the murderer? Why? Explain your opinion with details from the text. 
M. Bouc is working with a stereotype here, which is a preconceived notion or image of someone, usually very oversimplified and generalized. He is connecting the Italian man to the mafia as well as Chicago, notorious for its gangsters in the first part of the 20th century, also the setting for this book. The stereotype may have come from a prominent Chicago gangster of that time, Al Capone. Read about Al Capone below and decide for yourself if Bouc is stereotyping the Italian man. (This annotation contains a link)

Homework #20

Which is NOT a possible explanation for how the button ended up in Mrs. Hubbard's cabin? 
Two similes are used here to describe the Princess's appearance. How are these comparisons both insulting and complimentary at the same time? 
What is the significance of Princess Dragomiroff knowing the Armstrong family so well? 
It used to be customary for men to stand whenever a woman arrived at or left a table. While it is still done today, it is not considered necessary etiquette, which is rules of proper social behavior. Emily Post is the leading authority on etiquette, and her family has carried on her legacy. Browse the online etiquette encyclopedia and see how many rules of etiquette you follow! (This annotation contains a link)

Homework #21

What does the count mean when he says, "That certainly should throw light upon the matter?" 
Diplomatic passports are different from regular passports. Read about the difference at the site below then use that information to help you understand why M. Bouc is so concerned about not offending the Count and Countess. (This annotation contains a link)
Why might the grease spot be of interest to M. Poirot? Explain your answer, remembering to use information from the text to support your response. 

Homework #22

India was part of the British Empire until 1947 when India won its independence. Read more about the British influence on India in the first half of the 20th century at the site below. You will find a likely familiar name of someone who was instrumental in helping India achieve its independence through non-violent means. Who is that famous person? (This annotation contains a link)
Which word would NOT describe Colonel Arbuthnot? 
Use the Define feature to see the definition of the word "fug." Then see if you can determine in more modern language what Colonel Arbuthnot was saying about coming in from the cold. 
How did M. Poirot find out that Colonel Arbuthnot smoked a pipe? 
Nowadays, pipe cleaners are associated with arts and crafts. However, they are actual tools for those who smoke pipe tobacco. You can see in this video how pipe cleaners are used. However, smoking a pipe does carry health risks, which is one reason why smoking a pipe is not terribly common anymore. What other reasons might there be for a decline in the popularity of pipe smoking? (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #23

Why is Mr. Hardman so bitter that he doesn't know anything about the murder? 
Once again, you are seeing words written in dialect! Earlier you were asked to consider why Paris was written as "Parrus" when Americans said the name of the city. Did you figure out the reason why? If not, click on the link below for a hint! (This annotation contains a link)
Before the health risks were well known, smoking was quite popular and commonplace. Those who smoked cigarettes carried them in metal cigarette cases like the one pictured below. Why do you think people today don't carry cigarette cases anymore? (This annotation contains an image)
It is very interesting that Hardman said that Ratchett suspected the person who was after him was a small, dark man with a high-pitched voice yet no one on the train fits that description. If you were Poirot, what would be your strategy for continuing the investigation? Include information from the text to make your plan clear. 

Homework #24

The Italian man, Foscarelli, is saying that his roommate, the valet, was a fish. What literary device is used when a comparison is made saying one thing IS another? And what is Foscarelli saying about the valet in this comparison? 
Since there appears to be no evidence implicating the Italian, Foscarelli, in Ratchett's murder, on what is Bouc basing his suspicion? 

Homework #25

Why does Poirot ask Miss Debenham how she feels rather than what she knows? 
A governess was a woman employed to teach children in their home. We really don't have governesses anymore; we tend to have tutors or home schools. Why would people have wanted a governess? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being taught by a governess? 
Based on what you have learned so far, which character could NOT be implicated in this crime? 

Homework #26

You may have sensed tension between M. Poirot and Miss Debenham. In fact, there has been a great deal of tension between Poirot and many characters that has been slowly building. Watch the video below to understand the role of tension in a story and how it works hand in hand with the conflict. Then think about how the tension has built in this story and what it is leading up to. (This annotation contains a video)
What is Poirot doing when he assumes her dressing gown is scarlet? 
Use the Define feature to see the definitions for the word "rug." Did you know it could be used in more than one way? Confusion or unintentional humor can occur if a word is not understood the way it is meant, like in this case, where you likely imagined the Princess being covered with something we typically throw on the floor. If you come across a word that contextually does not make sense, check the definition to see if there is a meaning that you were not aware of. 
Who did Hildegarde Schmidt just describe? 

Homework #27

Blotting paper, seen on the right-hand side of the photograph below, was used to blot up excess ink when writing with old-fashioned pens that did not have the ink come out controlled like the pens we use today. What do you think would happen if blotting paper wasn't used? What do you think might be some of the problems associated with using blotting paper? (This annotation contains an image)
What is your opinion of Hardman? Is he who he says he is? Do you think he could be the murderer? Provide your opinion and support it with details from the text. 
M. Poirot and M. Bouc, while working together, approach this mystery with quite different understandings and attitudes. One might say that Bouc acts as a foil for Poirot. Read the definition of a foil below then think about what function the character of Bouc plays in this novel. (This annotation contains a link)
It appears that there is now a murder weapon! What do you think Poirot should do now that he has heard the testimony of the passengers and has what appears to be the knife used to kill Ratchett? Be sure to explain your reasons for why Poirot needs to do what you suggest by backing up your opinion with details from the text. 

Homework #28

A teetotaller is someone who abstains from drinking alcohol. The website below gives the origin of the word. Can Mrs. Hubbard call herself a teetotaller now that she has had some cognac even though it was for medicinal purposes? (This annotation contains a link)
Why doesn't Mrs. Hubbard want to sleep in her compartment anymore? 
Mrs. Hubbard was not comfortable in her carriage anymore, and M. Poirot thoughtfully had her moved to a new carriage with a new number as well. Superstitions about numbers are not uncommon. Read the article below for information on the fear of the number 13. Would Mrs. Hubbard have wanted to go into a new compartment if its number was 13? Also, based on the information in the article, is the choice of 12 a good choice? (This annotation contains a link)
Poirot used pathos to convince Mrs. Hubbard to allow him to search her luggage. Pathos is appealing to a person's emotional side or making a person feel certain emotions in order to get what you want from them. How did Poirot appeal to Mrs. Hubbard emotionally to get access to her luggage? 
Which item is probably NOT something they will be searching for in the passengers' luggage? 

Homework #29

Colonel Arbuthnot looks guilty of murder because of circumstantial evidence. Read an explanation of circumstantial evidence at the site below then determine what the circumstantial evidence is against Arbuthnot and if you think it is enough to really prove him guilty of Ratchett's murder. (This annotation contains a link)
Which of the following statements is probably NOT something that Poirot is implying? 
Use the Define feature to look at the meaning for the word "truculent." Based on what you have seen of the Count so far, do you believe he will be truculent about a search of his luggage? Next, read on to see his reaction. Was he indeed truculent? 
"Sal ammoniac" is smelling salts, a liquid that is inhaled to revive someone who has fainted. Why would Greta Ohlsson take smelling salts to Mrs. Hubbard? 
In the 21st century, it is hard to believe that it could be impossible to get a message to someone. If you have a smart phone, you probably have little experience with lack of ability to communicate. Miss Debenham is frustrated but not unaccustomed to lack of communication since communication relied on using a telephone or a telegraph. Watch the video below to see how telegraphs and telephones worked. Then think about what advances in technology had to happen in order to get to the types of communication you use today. (This annotation contains a video)
Do you think Miss Debenham has a role in this murder? If so, what is it? Be sure to back up your response with information from the text. If not, what makes you think she is not involved? This response also needs to be backed up with information from the text. 
This is an example of situational irony. Watch the video below to get an explanation of situation irony then decide how this circumstance fits the definition. (This annotation contains a video)
Quiz: The Evidence 

Homework #31

What purpose does M. Bouc's hypothesizing serve? 
The spelling you see here is a British spelling. The link below contains a very thorough list comparing the British and American spellings of many words. Which British spellings seem the most unique to you? Are there any that you were already familiar with? (This annotation contains a link)
Using the summary of characters provided, which character is your prime suspect and why? Use details from the text to support your answer. 

Homework #32

Use the Define feature to determine the meaning of the word "didactically." Then rephrase this sentence so it has a clearer meaning for you. 
Which word could be used to describe Poirot's response to Bouc's theory? 
It is entirely possible that someone who is weak and frail could pull off a feat that require more strength than the person normally has the capacity for. Superhuman strength can occur in high stress situations. Read about this phenomenon at the site below. Could this have happened to Princess Dragomiroff? (This annotation contains a link)

Homework #33

The style of writing used to show M. Bouc's and the doctor's thoughts is called stream of consciousness.  How do their thoughts fit that description? 
French francs no longer exist; they have been replaced by the Euro. However, Swiss francs still exist. Use the website below to see an approximate cost of this handkerchief by converting 200 Swiss francs to US dollars. (This annotation contains a link)
Use the define feature to look at the definition for the word "circuitous." Then decide which word would be the best antonym. 
An attaché is similar to an ambassador. Usually an attaché has a specified task to do on behalf of a country or an organization. What would an attaché from India do in the United States? What would an attaché from a college or university do at your high school? 

Homework #34

Which of the following is NOT a clue that Elena was really Helena before she admitted it to Poirot? 
M. Poirot, being a detective, probably has some experience in profiling criminals. This is a fascinating but limited career field. Read about careers in criminal profiling below then decide if this sounds like a job you might like to try! (This annotation contains a link)
What significance is it that Helena's mother is an actress? 

Homework #35

Do you side with M. Bouc, that Helena is guilty of murdering Ratchett, or do you side with M. Poirot, that she is telling the truth? Support your position with details from the text. 
Below is a picture of a guillotine, probably one of the most infamous tools used for execution. They are designed to chop the head off a person. Does this seem like a humane form of execution to you? (This annotation contains an image)
What is the significance of the Count keeping his handkerchief in his right-hand breast pocket? 
Poirot is trying to draw out the lies people may have told him. In our current era, we sometimes use polygraphs, or lie detector tests. Watch the video below to learn about how polygraphs work. Would you ever be willing to take a polygraph? (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #36

Is the pipe cleaner really of no importance, as M. Poirot says? He states he could think of eleven other explanations for how the pipe cleaner ended up next to M. Ratchett. Can you think of any explanations that would be plausible? 
Which is probably NOT one emotion Colonel Arbuthnot is feeling while waiting for Miss Debenham to arrive? 

Homework #37

Miss Debenham is correct when she says she knows it would be difficult to find meaningful employment with her name associated with a murder. This becomes even more difficult, nearly impossible, for a person who has actually been convicted of a crime. The link below outlines steps a person should take if he or she is trying to find a job with a criminal record. If you were in a position to hire someone with a criminal background, under what circumstances would you hire that person? What might be reasons that you would not hire someone with a criminal record? (This annotation contains a link)
This is an interesting statement from M. Poirot -- loyalty makes things difficult. How is loyalty making things difficult in this case, and do you think loyalty is a good thing or a bad thing? Use information from the text to explain your responses. 

Homework #38

Many people think being a chauffeur just means driving people places. However, it is actually a job with a large number of responsibilities. Do a quick brainstorm of what you think the responsibilities of a chauffeur are then click the link below to see a list of all the duties expected of a chauffeur. How many tasks did you miss? (This annotation contains a link)
Which is likely the reason the valet came to Poirot rather than waiting for Poirot to ask him to come? 
Use the Define feature to see the definitions of "bughouse." What is M. Hardman saying when he calls the train "bughouse?" 
You have been asked to make predictions as to the guilty party throughout the novel. You are about to find out how well you were able to interpret the clues! Make one final guess as to the murderer and explain why you think this person is guilty. Use what you have learned throughout this text to make your final conclusion. Then read on to see how close you were to being correct! 

Homework #39

It is hard to imagine a train being stuck in a snowdrift. Watch the video below to see a train plowing through some deep snow. How large would a snow drift have to be in order to prevent a train from moving? (This annotation contains a video)
Which might NOT be a reason the passengers are not disagreeing with Poirot? 
The culture of America is often described as a melting pot. How does this description match what Poirot said in the highlighted passage? 
Make a prediction before continuing your reading! What is Poirot suggesting? 
A red herring is actually a literary device. Click the link below to learn more about red herrings in literature then think about how red herrings are used in real life. Have you ever used a red herring? (This annotation contains a link)
This would be considered vigilante justice because a group of individuals took the law into their own hands to try to achieve what they thought would be justice. Do you think justice was served in the case of Mr. Ratchett? Do you think vigilante justice was appropriate in this particular case? 
Why did Poirot, Bouc, and the doctor decide to tell the police that the murderer was someone who got on and off the train in Vincovci? 
Quiz: Hercule Poirot Sits Back and Thinks