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Sherlock Holmes & The Speckled Band / Lamb To The Slaughter

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Sherlock Holmes & The Speckled Band / Lamb To The Slaughter

"Lamb to the slaughter", by Roald Dahl, and "The Speckled Band" by
Arthur Conan Doyle share many features, despite the difference in eras
in which they were written.

Each story has its own distinctive style when creating both tension
and an atmosphere of suspense.

"The Speckled Band" has a sense of urgency about it, yet manages to
build up suspense until the climax of the story.

"I have reasons to know....which tend to make the matter even more
terrible than the truth."

This quote, found in the first paragraph, immediately begins creating
an atmosphere for the story, and intriguing the reader as to what the
narrator (Dr. Watson) is talking about. The reader will now want to
continue reading to find out the truth.

Doyle also uses other character's speech to add to the tension:

"It is not cold which makes me shiver...it is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is
terror."

At this point, the events have not been explained - this character
(Miss Stoner) describing how she is feeling inceases the tension, as
the readers do not yet know the full situation; only that they should
be scared of whatever it is. The use of the word "terror" helps to
emphasise the point - 'fear' may not be strong enough, but following
it with 'terror' helps to reinforce the situation to the reader.

"You must not fear...we shall soon set matters right."

As Sherlock Holmes says this, it may cast a doubt over the reader's
mind - if a character issues a statement proclaiming that things will
turn out well, there is a concept that the opposite may happen
instead. All this further adds to the need to read more, as the reader
will now want to see if Holmes is indeed correct.

"The very horror of my situation lies in the fact that my fears are so
vague, and my decisions depend entirely upon small points."

Miss Stoner declares this when asked about her problem, and her reply
only enhances the mystery. The fact that she has no proof, nor any
idea of what is actually going on means that anything could happen in
the story.

"In a fit of anger...[Dr. Roylott] beat his native butler to death."

The character of Dr. Grimesby Roylott is introduced, and he is
described as an angry, violent man - creating a significant element of
danger about the situation. The idea that Sherlock Holmes may have met
his match produces an unpredictability about the story, again making
the reader want to continue and find out what happens.

"Your sister is dead, then?"

As the story now tells the reader that it contains death, it
immediately adds interest - the person reading it can now identify the
murder mystery the story is based on.

"...he was unable to find any satisfactory cause of death."

The fact that there is an unknown cause of death adds to the tension -
it means that there is foul play involved in the story...and even more
enigmatic, the idea that the cause of death has been unidentifiable.

"But what then, did the gipsies do?" "I cannot imagine."

Sherlock Holmes admitting he does not yet know the answer increases
the suspense and mystery in the story, as the reader is expecting
Holmes to know straight away.

"Lamb To The Slaughter" is written about a much shorter time span, and
as such goes into a lot more detail about certains events - this
builds the realism, which in turn increases the atmosphere and tension
felt by the reader.

"...two lamps alight - hers and the one by the empty chair opposite."

The sentence uses no anaphoric reference - the reader, at his point,
has no idea to whom "her" refers, and this immediately gives the scene
a sense of mystery, building the atmosphere.

"...as he spoke, he did an unusual thing."

The idea that a character is performing differently to the way they
normally do lets the reader know straight away that something is not
right in the situation.

Both stories contain twists in them, which helps build the overall
atmosphere and sense of mystery - they suggest that you may not know
as much as you think.

In "The Speckled Band", the means of death is a snakebite. This is
unexpected as no-one would randomly expect this to be used as a murder
weapon. The author uses the situation well though - using the
murderer's own weapon against him brings the story to a successful
climax.

Thw twist in "Lamb To The Slaughter" also involves the murder weapon -
in this case, the disposal of it. The author here also manages to end
the story in a fitting manner, by having the investigating officers
eat the murder weapon. The atmosphere and overall tone changes at the
climax - from a serious murder story to a black comedy, using the
line:

"Personally, I think it's right here on the premises." "Probably right
here under our very noses."

The irony is that the men are being unknowingly correct - they are
actually eating the leg of lamb used to kill one of their colleagues.

The two stories also differ in the way they use sympathy. In "The
Speckled Band", the audience is supposed to express sympathy towards
the victim, Helen Stoner, and is expected to be against the killer,
Dr. Roylott. In "Lamb To The Slaughter", it is written so that it
appears the killer is actually the true victim - that she was driven
to killing her husband by the man himself.

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