Lamb to the slaughter and The Speckled Band

Roald Dahl wrote Lamb to the Slaughter during the year 1954. During this period of time woman were seen as inferior to men and this is reflected in the writing. The Speckled Band was written in 1892 by Conan Doyle and is a part of the Sherlock Holmes trilogy. In the early 1890’s the Victorians had little faith in the police (due to the horrific acts of Jack the Ripper). London was a city living in fear and when the Sherlock Holmes books first become published, the public adored them. This is because Holmes solved all the cases he was involved in, becoming the ideal detective for all Londoners.

Holmes was so popular that when Doyle attempted to kill off the character there was public uproar, Doyle received numerous threatening hate mail regarding the matter. The Speckled Band was a typical Holmes detective story, however Lamb to the Slaughter was quite different, it delved into previously unexplored territories in stories at the time. A women murdering her husband in those days was unthinkable. The mood at the beginning of the two stories is very different. Lamb to the slaughter begins with Mary Maloney preparing for her husband’s return from work. The word “tranquil” captures the mood of the opening paragraphs.

This is quite an effective method by Dahl, he has lulled the reader into a false sense of security and has not prepared them for the shocking actions which proceed the opening. In comparison to this the speckled band begins with a distinct aroma of urgency surrounding it right from the beginning “It seems that a young lady has arrived in a considerable state of excitement”. Words such as excitement capture the mood` of the opening. The “excitement” compared with the “tranquil” lamb to the slaughter evidently makes the speckled band more appealing to read at the beginning.

The opening to the Speckled Band has a much higher tempo to it and is more compelling to read. The reader is witness to the murder scene in lamb to the slaughter “she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air as hard as she could”. This is very untypical when compared to the majority of murder mystery stories. It loses its effect on the audience, they are not kept guessing as to who the villain is and the intriguing nature of the story disappears.

The fact that the reader must rely on the words and atmosphere created by the language used by Conan Doyle is far more typical of a classic murder mystery. You remember in her statement she said that her sister could smell Dr Roylotts cigar”. Implication is more powerful than the obvious. The two villains within the stories are completely different to each other, not only in their physical appearance but also in their motives and the way in which their crimes are committed. Mary Maloneys crime is driven by pure anger of confusion towards her husband’s recent actions. Although we are not actually told what her husband has done to upset her so badly, there is a fair implication that he has been seeing another women behind her back.

In contrast to this Roylotts murder is most certainly planned, his motive is driven by financial difficulties which could arise if his stepdaughters were to be married. His desire to keep himself in good financial health eventually leads to drastic measures. Dahl conveys Mary Maloney to be a stereotypical, pleasant 1950’s housewife “There was a slow smiling air about her, and everything she was doing”. Descriptions such as the one above force the reader to assume that Mary surely cannot be capable as being the perpetrator in the story.

The vision we are given of Miss Maloney through Dahls writing lulls us, once again into a false sense of security, this makes it more shocking when Mary brutally disposes of her husband. In contrast to this Dr Roylott is depicted as a bad tempered and evil man when described by Doyle. “A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion”. Roylott was the stereotypical villain, his fellow villagers are afraid of the strength which he possessed “He stepped forward, seized the poker and bent it into a curve with his huge brown hands”.

This idea of pure strength was a vital characteristic of a villain during the period of time. The fact that Dahls villain was a woman would have stunned a 1950’s audience. Although the audience could perhaps have come to terms with her motives, the aftermath where she manipulates the detectives would have come as a huge shock to the system. Policemen were highly respected during the 50’s and for them to be so deceitfully manipulated would have really had a startling impact on the reader.

The main difference between the two villains is that one of them gets caught and subsequently killed and the other gets away with it. This is primarily due to the detectives. If Holmes was operating on the Maloney case she would most likely have been brought to justice, if Noonan had been investigating the Roylott case, Dr Roylott would most likely have succeeded in killing his step daughter. The unprofessional attitude of Noonan and his rushed, false assumptions lead him to physically consuming the evidence of the case, therefore dashing all hopes of solving the case.

Due to the fact that Mary Maloney is a women Noonan “always treated her kindly”. Mary Maloney responds to this immediate sense of respect by attempting to gain sympathy form Noonan “while she was talking, crying and talking”. It is evident that Noonan reacts to this plea of sympathy by granting seemingly small yet (unknown to Noonan) highly significant favours. “Would you do me a small favour-you and these others? ” Noonans vast stupidity develops a reaction from the reader; they begin to dislike him, as he is incapable of solving the crime.

In contrast to this Holmes is not intimidated when faced with problems from other individuals, he deals with the problematic situations he is faced with very calmly “I have heard of you before. You are Homes the meddler. My friend smiled. ” This high level of professionalism emphasises his excellent attitude towards the case and plants a heroic status in the reader’s mind. Unlike Noonan, Holmes is highly professional in everything he does. He treats everybody he comes into contact with as a suspect and asks relevant questions which are designed to aid him in his investigation.

Holmes searches every nook and cranny of the murder scene “examining minutely the cracks between the boards. ” His method of investigation is very different when compared with Noonan, who seems to do little scouring of the premises himself. We admire Holmes seemingly superhuman thinking and the work rate, which he invests into the case. Dahl uses his detective in order to underline the inferiority of women during the 1950’s. Noonans actions are strange and would be laughed upon had a man committed the crime. Noonans relaxed attitude towards the case reinforces that women were considered as a completely different species.

The speckled band is also trying to show attitudes at the time of writing. The fact that Holmes always solves the cases could be an attempt to reinstall faith in the police, after the Jack the Ripper fiasco. The Speckled band is primarily set in the house of Stoke Moran during the year 1892. The scene of the crime is a small, relatively empty room, which belong to Dr Roylotts stepdaughter Helena. Lamb to the slaughter is set in a “warm and clean” 1950’s household, which belongs to Patrick Maloney and his wife Mary Maloney.

The setting for Lamb to the slaughter is highly untypical when compared to most successful detective, murder mystery stories. The house is described as being “warm and clean”; this is the complete opposite of a stereotypical setting, which could normally be depicted as damp and dirty. The “tranquil” atmosphere Dahl has created relaxes the reader; it becomes difficult to assume that this household could be the scene of the forthcoming crime. Dahl builds the house up to a state of perfection, everything seems to be prepared down to the ice cubes “fresh ice cubes in the thermos bucket”.

This perfection makes it seemingly impossible in the reader’s mind that an atrocity could occur in the not so distant future. The setting mirrors the character. Mrs Maloney could certainly be described as a “tranquil” person and the whole scene itself seems to reflect the way in which she goes about preparing for her husband’s return. Similarly Dr Roylotts living quarters seem to reflect his character. At first the room seems relatively normal, however on closer inspection Holmes reveals some very odd findings “Hullo! Here is something interesting”.

These “interesting” findings reflect the mysteriousness of Dr Roylott. The fact that he frequently allows gypsies to form colonies in his back garden and owns a baboon and a cheetah emphasises his intriguing nature. Pathetic fallacy is used at the beginning of the speckled band “I observed that you are shivering”. The shivering Helen which Holmes is referring to indicates that the weather outside is most unpleasant, this unpleasant weather sets the mood for the rest of the story. The homely atmosphere in the Maloney household probably helps to secure Mary’s alibi.

The comfy surroundings, which Noonan finds himself in helps to relax him and subsequently causes him to be more susceptible to a subtle yet manipulating onslaught by Mary Maloney. The meticulous way in which Mary Maloney prepares for her husband’s arrival creates an atmosphere of calmness “the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight-hers and one by the empty chair opposite”. The reader assumes that the attention to detail Mary Maloney is seemingly obsessed with is an attempt to please her husband, therefore the reader can assume that their relationship is stable.

The room that Helen is sleeping in is full of potentially significant objects, however only the minority of these items is actually of any aid when solving the case. The author leaves certain items in the room in order to attempt to throw the reader off the scent of the case, these irrelevant clues such as the gypsy theory are otherwise known as red herrings. This is effective, as the reader is even more surprised when Holmes reveals the outcome of the case. As both of the stories are labelled as “short stories”, then plot and structure isn’t too complicated.

They key point in the speckled band arrives during the opening, when Helen explains the situation regarding the mysteries whistles. “As I opened my door I seemed to hear a low whistle”. Her statement describing the events of her sister’s death and the new current threat to her life sets the scene for the rest of the story. After the speech made by Helen the speckled band is transformed into a typical “whodunit” murder mystery format. Similarly to this, the lamb to the slaughter has one key moment “Sit down, he said.

Just for a minute sit down. It wasn’t till then that she began to get frightened. ” This crisis point in the story succeeds in completely changing the entire mood of the story, shocking the reader as the relaxed atmosphere is turned into chaos. The speckled band is roughly double the length of the lamb to the slaughter, this is significant as the extra length gives the author an opportunity to plant subtle clues within the text and add seemingly irrelevant details which help to build up the atmosphere of the murder mystery.

In Lamb to the slaughter the reader witnesses the crime, therefore it is impossible to plant clues regarding the case, when there is nothing to solve, this is why lamb to the slaughter is shorter than the speckled band. The lamb to the slaughter is narrated in the third person and follows the actions and thoughts of Mary Maloney; in this case the narrator sees all on knows all. Holmes close companion Watson narrates the speckled band, evidently Watson does not know everything otherwise the case would be solved in a matter of minutes.

Dahls narrator follows the reactions and movements of Mary Maloney, this reveals the inner thoughts of Mary Maloney and crucially discloses to the reader her initial reactions regarding the murder. Her reactions are vital when deciding weather or not she is regretting the murder of her husband. Directly after she murders her husband she begins to rehearse her alibi by practising what she is going to say upon meeting Sam the grocer “I want some potatoes please, Sam. Yes, and I think a can of peas”.

By tracking her thoughts throughout the story it becomes apparent to the reader what her intentions are and the reader’s attitude towards Miss Maloney begin to change. The narration throughout the speckled band is very dissimilar to the narration of lamb to the slaughter. The narrator actually changes during the story. It begins with Watson giving some background information to the morning before Holmes and himself are given the task of investigating the murder, it then switches back to Helen who gives her statement. “My sister Julia and I were twins”.

It then switches back to the narration of Watson who tells the remainder of the story. The fact that Doyle chooses Helen to narrate her own statement is very effective. It means that she can go into more detail and the problem, which Holmes has to solve, is made crystal clear to the reader. The reader is forced to adopt an opinion regarding the characters, this opinion may be influenced by the way in which the narrator expresses his views, Dahls story is written in the third person who can read the thoughts of Mary Maloney which reveal her evil streak. This forces the reader to change his or her attitude towards Mary Maloney.

The style of writing is typical to the era, which the stories were written in. Perhaps the strongest issue at the time of the release of Dahls story was the inferiority of women. This is reflected during the opening paragraphs of the story and runs throughout. “She walked over and made the drinks, a strongish one for him and a weak one for herself”. The difference between the strong and weak drink symbolised the strength, which was associated with men at the time and the weakness, which symbolised women. Jack the Ripper dominated the main themes during the Victorian period, especially during the early 1980’s.

The main idea the entire Holmes trilogy was based about was providing a reprieve from the inadequacies of the police force to the public. It was imperative that Holmes solved every investigation he was associated with. This is reflected in the style of writing, Holmes has superhuman thinking and uses basic pieces of information to piece together the necessary evidence required to crack the case. Short sentences show tension and irritation, Patrick Maloney illustrates this in lamb to the slaughter when he becomes annoyed at the constant unnecessary attention he is receiving from his wife. I don’t want it… forget it. ”

Due to these short phrases that are mustered from Patrick Maloneys mouth the reader can recognise that he is irritated by something, this tension could effect the story in a negative manner. Similarly to this, short sentences are used to show tension and anxiety during the speckled band. When Holmes discovers the snake in the room he frantically alerts Watson to the danger. “You see it, Watson? He yelled. You see it. ” Short sentences are again used in order to create tension and build up an apprehensive atmosphere. Long sentences with apt use of commas also create tension.

This is emphasised beautifully when Mary Maloney is impatiently waiting for her husband’s arrival. “When the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen, and a few moments later, punctually as always, she heard the tyres on the gravel outside, and the car door slamming, the footsteps passing the window, the key turning in the lock”. This particular extract was probably not designed to build up tension in the reader mind, it is there to show the reader how excited Mary Maloney gets about the seemingly insignificant return of her husband, this emphasises the 1950’s era and the whole idea of inferiority towards the female race.

Once again the same writing style is deployed within the speckled band. The tension is at its peak when Holmes and his associate Watson are waiting for Roylott to attempt the murder of his stepdaughter. “I could not hear a sound, not even the drawing of breath, and yet I knew that my companion sat open-eyed, within a few feet of me, in the same nervous state of tension in which I was myself”. This build up of tension prolongs the outcome of the incident and frustrates the reader in a positive and effective manner.

The Speckled Band is a serious affair all the way through when compared with lamb to the slaughter. Holmes’s highly professional attitude reflects the seriousness of the book, whilst the light-hearted ending of lamb to the slaughter helps the book to loose its serious effect. The ending is so ironic that it is barely believable. The respective authors both use different styles of writing in order to add a hint of humour into their story or simply keep the story as a serious affair the whole way through. Some parts of lamb to the slaughter are laughable, especially at the very end.

The sheer irony forces the reader to chuckle as the detectives are discussing possible links which may aid them in finding the murder weapon. “Whoever done it, they’re not going to be carrying a thing like that around with them any longer than they need”. Unknown to the unfortunate detectives the lamb they are so rapidly consuming is their only hope in gaining a remote chance of tracing the killer. However the same cannot be said for the speckled band, there is not a hint of comical value within the entire story.

Holmes’s attitude towards the case leaves no room for jokes, as they will not aid him to his goal of solving the case. There are a number of instances in the speckled band, which stresses the seriousness of the novel; the style of writing is just one way in which Doyle highlights this. ” I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes on his private investigations”. The language used throughout the quote emphasises the serious attitude, which runs throughout the story. The authors must incorporate their style of language into the language of the characters.

Mary Maloney uses conversation as a tool to manipulate Jack Noonan “You must be awfully tired. Please do, you’ve been very good to me”. Adjectives such as “awfully” highlight her desperation in the minds of the detectives and therefore the element of sympathy comes into action. The more sympathetic Mary sounds the more likely she is in succeeding when attempting to manipulate the detectives. Another technique, which Mary uses in order to deceive the detectives, is the melodramatic tone which she adopts “Oh dear me”. Once again this aids her desperate plea of sympathy.

Mary Maloney also use her tone of language to cover up potential points of danger to her alibi, a good example of this is when she is alerted that her oven is still on, Mary reacts in a surprised manner “so it is”. She is trying to hide her knowledge of the oven by overreacting, this tactic is successful and once again she has taken advantage of the unprofessional attitude of Jack Noonan. Holmes’s language in the speckled band is reassuring and accurate; he always seems to insert useful comments at the correct moment in time. He is also highly courteous towards women “Quite so.

Pray proceed with your statement. ” A Victorian reader would have appreciated these elegant manners and their fondness towards Sherlock Holmes would have increased dramatically as manners, decorum and appropriate language were crucial signs of a gentlemen during the Victorian era. In contrast to this the language of the male characters towards women in Dahl’s book are almost the reverse to the courteousness of Holmes. Patrick Maloney treats his wife with very little respect, even when it is blatantly obvious that she is trying as hard as she possibly can to ensure that his life is as comfortable as possible.

Dahl uses short, snappy sentences when Patrick is participating in conversation with his wife. “Go on, he said. Sit down. ” The difference between the manners of Holmes and the disrespect shown by Patrick Maloney clearly illustrates the difference in beliefs between the two time periods, regarding the issue of women’s rights. The endings to the stories are both unexpected, however the speckled band ahs a twist in the tale, the lamb to the slaughter includes an element of comical surprise.

When the speckled band does not end in the way the reader expects it to this have a positive effect on the reader. The unexpected ending has pleasant element of surprise attached to it, which excites the reader and encourages him/her to read more of the trilogy. At the end of both of the stories the meanings of the titles are revealed, they are both relevant to the respective stories. The speckled band is discussed briefly in the statement of Helen as the last thing, which her late sister managed to muster before the poison of the snake, took full effect.

It becomes apparent during the ending that the speckled band is a collar, which is fastened to the snake before it, unleashes its venom on its innocent victims. The lamb to the slaughter is a significant title as the murder weapon is actually a lamb’s leg. The word slaughter refers to the slaughtering of Patrick Maloney. The title is a clue to the reader, once Mary Maloney receives the leg of lamb the reader could immediately assume that this piece of lamb would be used to slaughter someone.

Holmes’s final comment shows that he believes that in killing Dr Roylott he is morally correct and he will not be the sole beneficiary of his death. “I am no doubt indirectly responsible for Dr Grimesby Roylott’s death, and I cannot say that it is likely to weigh very heavily upon my conscience” He indicates that the significance of his death is minimal and therefore he will not dwell on the matter. In contrast to this Mary’s giggling indicates that she is proud of the atrocities she has committed.

Her laugh adds a sickening tinge to the already quite disgusting prospect of eating a leg of lamb smothered with blood “And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle”. Mary’s giggling could also be interpreted as a sign of madness which could have been brought on by the consequences of her actions, this therefore suggests that the matter regarding her husbands death will lie embedded in her conscience for as long as she lives. The difference between the two reactions show that attitudes towards murder and crime had changed dramatically during the period between the Victorian era and the 1950’s.

In my personal opinion I was more attracted to Conan Doyle story, the speckled band. I particularly enjoyed the writing style throughout the story and the way in which I could attempt to solve the crime appealed to me greatly. I believe that the reader being witness to the murder in lamb the slaughter slightly lost the effect on the reader, however if I had the same beliefs and attitudes towards women as they did in the 1950’s, the story would most likely have appealed to me a lot more.

I did however enjoy the way in which the cunning instincts of Mary Maloney aided her in manipulating the detectives. The specked ban was the more compelling of the two as the author succeeded in creating tension and the use of red herrings was especially effective as it threw the majority of readers off the scent of the case, and made the outcome even more surprising than previously anticipated. The essential differences between the two essays come in the form of arguably the two most important people involved in it.

The detectives and the villains. The motives and attitudes of the two villains are completely different. Similarly the way in which the detectives go about investigating their respective crimes is completely different. The endings to the stories are both unexpected and surprising. The main difference is that in the lamb to the slaughter the reader witnesses the murder, in the speckled band the reader is given he task of solving the murder. This is perhaps the key difference between the two stories.