Title page for ETD etd-06032007-204040

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Fillingim, Carron Stewart
URN etd-06032007-204040
Title Revelations from "Cheesecake Manor": Agatha Christie, Detective Fiction, and Interwar England
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Meredith Veldman Committee Chair
Charles Shindo Committee Member
Victor Stater Committee Member
  • 20th century english social and cultural history
  • 20th century english literary history
  • 20th century english women's writing
Date of Defense 2007-05-15
Availability unrestricted
For too long standard interwar histories have portrayed the interwar years as a period marked by failure, instability, depression, and volatility. Instead, rising living standards, the narrowing of socioeconomic disparities, expanded avenues of social welfare, increased leisure time, and mass consumerism resulted in an altogether peaceful, healthier, stable, and increasingly affluent England. Out of these rising economic improvements emerged forms of mass entertainment, including popular fiction. Cheaper paper and printing methods, rising literacy, faster distribution methods, new forms of advertising, and the expansion of public libraries led to the creation of a mass readership across England. For the first time, publishers truly had to give the people what they wanted. As such, the proliferation and popularization of genres, both new and old, occurred. Most notably, the detective genre matured and blossomed during this period, which marked its "Golden Age." As its authors' sales depended on popular approval and because of the genre's realistic, conservative nature, detective fiction offers historians an inside look into the conventional morals, attitudes, beliefs, and values of the English interwar public.

It was Dame Agatha Christie's fiction that dominated sales both in the detective genre and in popular fiction in general. Throughout her astonishingly successful career, from 1920 until 1976, she always attempted to be as realistic, current, and up-to-date as possible. As such, she left behind a record of the times that she experienced firsthand. As a highly conventional middle-class woman, she mainly wrote for and about the class that guided England's social and cultural life. Her works affirm the reality that interwar England was a nation that still followed and believed in late Victorian and Edwardian morals and values, accepted the existence of hierarchy and class distinctions based primarily on birth, and condoned Britain's role as an imperial nation.

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