By repeatedly referring to cucumbers throughout “The Mystery of the Spanish Shawl”, Agatha Christie portrays Anthony Eastwood’s character as a prideful and inquisitive man who becomes easily flustered in his indecision.
The author utilizes the word ‘cucumber’ as a gateway between Eastwood’s normal life and the one he wishes to write about, giving insight to his character. While looking around the antique glass shop, Eastwood has trouble deciding whether or not to say the codeword ‘cucumber’. Christie writes, “Mr. Eastwood felt that he was laying up trouble for himself…And yet he could not bring himself to leave the shop” (189). His reluctance to leave reveals his longing for an adventure and an intriguing story. However, the need to create a riveting novel is overshadowed by his indecision to say the password, thus a product of his hesitant nature. The mental battle ensuing in his mind shows how difficult it is for him to make the transition between ‘his’ world and the one of mystery. Christie writes, “He became desperate…What in the devil did it matter what [the shopkeeper] thought? ‘Cucumber,’ he said, clearly and firmly” (189-190). After much deliberation, Eastwood’s inquisitive nature takes the reins and he eventually says the password to get upstairs and into the action. After he finally says ‘cucumber’ to the shopkeeper, he immediately enters into a world much different than his own that is full of mystery, inspiration, and danger. The word is used as a password for him to physically get upstairs; however, it also is a means for him to continue on the journey of finding a story. Agatha Christie portrays Eastwood’s mental dilemma through his decision of whether or not to say ‘cucumber.’ Through the use of this word, Christie juxtaposes the two choices Eastwood has, which further allows his character to develop in the larger context of the short story.