The Adventures of the Speckled Band and The Lamb to the Slaughter

The Adventures of the Speckled Band and The Lamb to the Slaughter

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Comparing the two stories The Adventures of the Speckled Band and
The Lamb to the Slaughter

Within this essay I will be comparing and contrasting the two
detective stories 'The Adventures of the Speckled Band' and 'The Lamb
to the Slaughter', referring to the structure, language and
characterisation. 'The speckled band' was written in 1892 by Sir
Arthur Doyle, he was qualified as a doctor which gave him a medical
perspective for all his stories. 'The lamb to the slaughter' was
written in 1952 by Roald Dahl most famous for writing children's
stories although he did write adult material such as the book 'The
lamb to the slaughter featured in 'The tales of the unexpected'.
Detective stories mainly base themselves around solving murder cases;
the reader is taken on a journey to find who is guilty and their
motive which is normally along the lines of greed, loneliness and
hatred.

'The speckled band' is written in 1st person and the story is narrated
by Dr Watson, Sherlock's partner and dear friend. The story begins
with Dr Watson looking over his old notes and introducing us to his
views and feelings on Sherlock Holmes and his amazing talent for
solving murder mysteries. We are taken back eight years to a case they
solved. They were visited by a lady called Helen Stoner who explained
her story from the moment her mother died to the most recent events.
From there the story is slowly built up until the climax at the end
when the case is solved. Conan Doyle is able to engage the reader by
the affect of drama and atmosphere using short staccato sentences to
convey excitement, movement and speed. Dynamic verbs such as 'rush'
and 'groping' emphasises this. He is able to make the reader want to
carry on by uncovering each clue one by one putting together the
puzzle. The further you read the more clues you will get until you
have the full picture. The story ends with the uncovering of the whole
murder mystery; Sherlock explains that he is in 'no doubt' that he is
'directly responsible for Dr Grimsby Roylott's death' but it will not
'Weigh heavily' on his mind. He solved the case and prevented from
anyone else becoming a victim. This story is an extremely typical
detective story as it has the hero/ maverick and his apprentice crack
the case (which they always do), saving the lives of innocent people.
It contains vital ingredients for a detective story, suspense,
atmosphere, tension and so on.

'The Lamb to the Slaughter' is written in third person told by an
onlooker. The story begins in the home of Mr and Mrs Maloney, the room

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is the first thing described building an image of the surroundings and
creating an atmosphere. Within the first paragraph it describes 'two
tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos
bucket.' this gives the idea of a routine of some sort before the
story has even started.

The most dramatic point in the story is when Mary Maloney killed her
husband with a leg of lamb, it happens very unexpectedly. Even though
the event took place early on in the story Roald Dahl is able to keep
the reader interested because they would want to know her reaction and
he outcome. The story ends with the detectives eating the murder
weapon without realising they were eating the evidence. The last
sentence of the story is 'And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to
giggle' this describes her ironic laughter and the fact that she was
able to fool the detectives.

I do not think this is a typical detective story; it does not have the
stereotypical suspense of the clue finding. It also does not have the
oddball detective which is put on the case. Most importantly the case
is not solved by the end of the story, normally by the end of a murder
mystery/ detective story the case is solved.

The sentences in the speckled band are descriptive and highly formal
it often made it difficult to read the sentences because of the length
and complexity. For example the sentence which begins 'when you
combine the ideas of whistles at night…' and ends 'I think that there
is good ground to think that the mystery may be cleared along those
lines.' It is only broken down by the use of commas. Words and details
are used beyond their need. There is a use of diction whose meanings
have changed since time the story was written such as 'fantastic'
which meant unreal, 'intimate' meaning close friend in the plutonic
sense and ejaculation meaning

. He also uses individual words which manifold wickedness of human
hard, 'horror' to emphasis the atmosphere. The language is typical of
the Victorian era as everyone spoke very formally.

The lamb to the slaughter has a lot shorter snappier sentences leaving
room for imagination. In comparison to the speckled band it is a lot
easier to follow and quicker to read. This allows the reader to
imagine the story in their own way. The short sentences build up the
tension bracing you for the sudden event. At the beginning of the
story the sentences are slightly longer and more descriptive then the
main section in the middle. 'The room was warm and clean, the curtains
drawn, the two table lamps alight - hers and the one by the empty
chair opposite.' The longer sentences at the beginning make the reader
feel as thought they are there observing the description.

The main characters in the speckled band are all portrayed as
stereotypical men and women of the Victorian era with typical values
of that time. For example men were thought to be of more importance
and had authority over women. Sherlock has a strong personality
portrayed at points like when he says 'you must not fear' indicating
he is strong and will save everyone. The men of Victorian time where
made out to be very intelligent, Sherlock ponders the details of the
case whilst staring into the fire. Sherlock has the answers to
everything and notices the finest details. Whereas the women in this
case Helen Stoner, are portrayed as helpless, pathetic and dependant
on men. The female personality emphasises male characters ability to
handle a situation. The fact that Helen Stoner lives in 'fear' and
desperately needs Sherlock's help to solve the case conveys her
dependence on men.

The characters I have described are all very typical of the Victorian
villains and heroes; the villain is cunning and sly whereas the hero
is intelligent. The characters mainly appear in a home whether it be
Sherlock's or Dr Roylott's. Dr Roylott lives in an old spooky house
half of which is abandoned, a stereotypical setting for unusual
happenings. This makes the reader suspicious of the character who owns
it; he may be as dodgy as his house and its strange inhabitants.
Sherlock's home is portrayed as being warm welcoming and safe an idea
which mainly comes from the fire which is constantly mentioned.

In the lamb to the slaughter Mary Maloney is described in the most
detail. The other characters do not have their features described in
detail. Mary is described at the beginning of the story and is
portrayed as a normal housewife and mother to be waiting for her
husband to come home. The fact that she is described at the beginning
makes the murder seem very abrupt because it is unexpected from a
woman so sweetly described. The reason Roald Dahl tells you what Mary
is thinking is so that the reader sees from her point of view and it
would also explain why she did what she did. There are a few
stereotypes in this story but they are not as obvious as the speckled
band. For example Mary at the beginning of the story carries out her
housewifely duties waiting for her husband to come home as she does
routinely. She hangs on his every word and wants to please him
constantly. Mr Maloney is a typical husband works all day and comes
home tired and in a bad mood. The police men at the end portray men in
general in recent society, slobs and gullible when a woman uses her
innocence and charm. In the story the tables are turned slightly
although Mary's husband wanted to leave her she would still be the
villain as she murdered him, normally men are the murders.

The characters are similar if not the same as 'real people' a
character is turned evil in a fit of rage which happens to many people
today but it may not result in an extreme like murder.

There are more differences than similarities between these two stories
this mainly lies on the fact that the stories where written 62 years
apart. As the times changed so did literature, this was a result of
people altering the way they spoke which in turn transferred into
writing. What was typical of a detective story in the Victorian era is
certainly not the same at present or when the lamb to the slaughter
was written. If an author during the Victorian era wrote a story
similar to Roald Dahl's with a wife murdering her husband it would not
have been accepted and many would have been outraged. In the Victorian
era femininity was extremely important women where like china dolls
fragile, helpless, dependant on their 'owner' (men) and just for show.
Violence was not accepted and evil was always defeated by good.
Although detective stories of today can be extremely different to
Sherlock Holmes, Connan Doyle's stories were important as they set the
conventions for the detective story genre.

I personally preferred The Lamb to the Slaughter because it was much
more understandable therefore more enjoyable. Although Sherlock Holmes
is a classic detective story and is a literary work of art I preferred
the ability, given by The Lamb to the Slaughter to allow my
imagination to lead the story.
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