Miss Marple’s Most Endearing Traits

Agatha Christie’s unassuming OAP is a far cry from most TV detectives… and that’s exactly why we love her.

Miss Marple


What do we mean by this? Well, consider the fact that you don't really see many proper little old ladies these days. Here in the 21st Century, even our grandparents are increasingly trendy and cool into their twilight years (just look at Mary Berry's colourful bomber jackets). The idea of the little old lady with her comfy clothes, biscuit tins and knitting needles is increasingly becoming a dated stereotype... and that's a shame. Because who doesn't love a proper little old lady? And that's exactly what Miss Marple is. With her pretty hat and prim clothes, she's as fond of balls of wool as she is of solving terrible murders, and we adore her for it.


Don't be fooled by her harmless OAP-ishness, though. The brilliance of Miss Marple lies in her casual and unexpected wisdom. Behind that bird-like façade there is a whirring mind at work, constantly observing and evaluating in a way that would make any professional detective blush. And she has a way of dropping cutting comments when you least expect it. She's even rather cynical, and makes most of the villagers of St. Mary Mead look positively naïve by comparison. "It's very dangerous to believe people," she says wryly. "I haven't for years." Words to live by, we can all agree.


When it comes to murder mysteries, Miss Marple is... well, a little too keen at times. At least for the tastes of official law enforcement, who can regard her as a touch meddlesome. Of course, Miss Marple is well aware of this, and it brings out her cheeky streak. "Oh, forgive me, Superintendent," she once said to a police officer, "but I hope you don't... how should I put it?... find me irritating." Her quiet wit is deployed out of the blue, and it's enough to make anyone snort into their tea. To pluck just one comment she made about a hapless chambermaid: "You'd do well to talk to that young woman. I've trained quite a few maids in my time, but I've never seen a bob curtsey like that since the St. Mary Mead players put on a French farce."


Given her idyllic, flower-fringed rural surroundings, it's easy to forget that Miss Marple has seen more examples of human violence and wickedness than an inner city pathologist. The wonderful thing about her, though, is how absolutely matter-of-fact she remains, despite the endless succession of deceit and dead bodies. She is... what's the best word? Impeccable. She is impeccably unfazed. Consider her deadpan response to the revelation of a death threat. "Who sends a written death threat?" she asks bluntly. "Surely not someone who truly intends to kill the recipient. It's common sense not to warn them." Even those of us who don't have a corpse on our hands would do well to learn from such composure.


You know what's a particularly refreshing and all-round wonderful thing about Jane Marple? That she knows who she is, and has never been fussed about living up to other people's expectations or "aspiring" to new things all the time. Compare that to most of us today, who are conditioned to constantly worry about our careers, our social standings, and our future ambitions. No so Miss Marple. Even when one character told her she had a reputation to maintain, she bluntly replied, "My reputation, if I have one, and how very kind of you to suggest I do, is neither here nor there." Well said, Miss Marple. Well said indeed.