Roald Dahl – Lamb to the Slaughter and Arthur Conan Doyle – The Speckled Band

“The Speckled Band” and “Lamb to the Slaughter” are two short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Roald Dahl respectively. “The Speckled Band” appears to have been written before 1900, in the late 1800’s, whilst “Lamb To the Slaughter” appears to have been written in the 1950’s. The cultural differences and variation in language will definitely have played a part in setting these stories apart from each other, even though that they were both born into the detective story genre of writing.A detective story is typically when a member of the public approaches a private investigator or police detective to delve into the mystery surrounding the death of a relative or friend. These kinds of detectives often have special methods, or are often rather eccentric in their methods of exploring motives, and capturing the guilty party. These kinds of stories are usually told from a third person’s perspective.

The detective, more often than not with a sidekick, will probe all aspects of the story, and eventually find the murderer, bringing them to justice.The Speckled Band” is typical of this genre, and the usual signs are followed right through the story. Miss Helen Stoner comes to the renowned private detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, to discuss the great distress to her, since witnessing the death of her sister, Miss Julia Stoner. She requests Mr. Holmes’ assistance in finding the cause of her sisters untimely demise in a totally secure room, where it was apparent that no-one could get in or out. This short story is longer than usual, as it would leave the reader confused, were it not to contain the detail surrounding Sherlock’s solving of the mystery.In “Lamb to the Slaughter,” however, the story details a very straight- forward, cold-blooded murder, and the murderesses successful attempt to avoid the finger of suspicion landing upon her.

“Lamb to the Slaughter” is shorter than “The Speckled Band” because really there is no mystery to solve, as the reader feels that they have witnessed the murder as it happened, and so there is no real need to relive the events that happened earlier on that evening.What the reader really wants to know, I think, is what becomes of Mary Malone, the woman who murdered her husband, but didn’t really deserve to go to prison, more like she needed help of some kind. “The Speckled Band” begins as explained earlier on, when Miss Helen Stoner comes to Sherlock Holmes, a famous private detective, who lives in Baker Street, London, to seek help regarding her sister Julia Stoner’s death. Although the story is written in a third persons perspective, that person is Dr.

Watson, Sherlock’s sidekick, as it were.From being woken that morning by Dr. Watson, Sherlock is consumed by a desire to solve this case that revolves around the death of a young woman, apparently killed by a speckled band. The reader is fully engaged in the story with the small clues, little snippets of information and red herrings dropped in to the plot by the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. For example, Mr. Holmes notices marks on the wrists of Helen Stoner, a sign of domestic violence, and this reads true, as her father, Dr.

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Grimesby-Roylott, a convicted murderer, does hit her.Arthur Conan Doyle drops red herrings in to make the reader think, and also to mislead, as if to give a sense of satisfaction to the readers who followed the correct clues to their final conclusion, and it also gives those who did not guess right the ideas that maybe they should concentrate an ponder some more when presented with clues to the final ending of the plot. Examples of red herrings are the Gypsies that were allowed to camp in the grounds of Stoke-Moran. Gypsies have a reputation as a very shifty and criminal race. Also, they wear a lot of needle-knitted jewellery, which the speckled band described by Helen Stoner could be.There are also the Baboon and Cheetah, two naturally aggressive and defensive animals, which could have killed Julia Stoner, but which was in fact a red herring, and designed to take the reader up the wrong path. There was a metallic clanging sound late at night which, prior to her death, Julia had reported hearing to her sister.

In the bedroom where Julia was killed, there was a service bell, which didn’t work, and air vents that didn’t really work or a have a use either. A saucer of milk was also discovered in the house, but for what, the detectives wondered, as no cats were kept in the household.There was also Dr. Grimesby-Roylott’s conviction of murder, which indicated that he could have killed again, but this notion can be dismissed by the reader’s knowledge that the room was totally secure from anyone entering it with the intent to harm Miss Stoner. There was also the matter of the will that was left by the mother of the two girls, and the wife of Doctor Roylott. She was a rich woman, whereas the Doctor was very poor, and in her will, Mrs.

Stoner had said that her estate would be split by a third to each daughter upon their marriage.Julia Stoner, before her death, had become betrothed to a half-pay major in the marines. The Doctor had feared his fall from grace altogether, were he to lose full control of his late wife’s estate, and the money that would keep him in his precarious state of financial well-being. These red herrings help to add an awful lot of suspense, making the reader want to read on to find who committed the murder, and solve the mystery. The story ends with Sherlock staking out the house, hiding in a bedroom with Watson late at night, after the doctor had gone to bed.

Sherlock notices the air vent, which he had seen previously yield light: the Doctor had lit a lantern, which soon dimmed out. Then they heard a hissing noise, and Watson jumped, mistaking the bell pull for something a little more sinister. They then hear a loud scream, and rush into the Doctors bedroom, to see him gasping for breath, with a speckled band around his neck, just like the one that had apparently caused the death of Julia Stoner. This speckled band suddenly loosened, and fell to the floor. It was a snake! Sherlock picked up the snake with his stick, and put it into a safe in the Doctors bedroom wall.

The closing and opening of the safe turned out to be the cause of the metallic clanging noise that had been heard in the house, as it was the home of the exotic and highly dangerous pet that the Doctor had kept. Doctor Grimesby-Roylott had been playing with his pet, when it strangled him by accident. He had used an elaborate training technique, where he would using a whistle, summon the snake, let it do it’s work, then reward it with a saucer of milk, for doing his dirty work with its unknown eastern poison, undetectable to any doctor at that time in England.

This story is typical of the genre, as there is a mysterious death that needs to be investigated, it’s a pretty complex way of killing and covering up crimes, with exotic animals, and fake air vents, there is the sidekick to go with the hero, Sherlock, who is a most observant person, and someone who examines everything to do with the death, but his time cannot bring the murderer to justice, as he was killed by his own practice of delivering death in a most cunning way.Lamb To The Slaughter” is told from a third persons view, a person with no role to play in the story, just to give a sincere account of the events that took place that evening. The story begins by setting the scene. It describes the ambience of the room, “The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. ” It describes the love felt by Mary Maloney as she waited for her husband to return home from his work as a police detective.She made her and Patrick a drink, and enquired as to what he would like to eat. Patrick didn’t want to eat, as he had something of the highest importance that he needed to tell Mary, who was with child.

It begins like this to show a sense of love and normality around Mary and Patrick’s marriage and home. The most dramatic point in the story, from my point of view, is when she raises the leg of lamb above her head, and brings it down as hard as she can on the back of his head.Roald Dahl keeps the reader engaged in the story, even though we know who the murderer is, by keeping us hanging on for the fate of Mary Maloney, who in the readers eyes committed a crime of passion.

The reader wishes to know whether she will be able to dispose of the evidence, and whether she will go to prison, or face the death penalty, which was still being used at the time in which the story is set.The story ends with Mary phoning the police after a trip out to the grocers, as an alibi, and they come to investigate this seemingly senseless bludgeoning of a fellow policeman. Mary ends up putting the only piece of evidence that could link her to the crime, the leg of lamb, in the oven, and letting the investigating officers eating it, therefore disposing the only thing that could have proved that she carried out the murder, in the days before DNA and forensic testing.I don’t think that this sticks with anything you would associate with the detective genre, as it creates sympathy on the murderers behalf, and there imply is no mystery: the whole point of the story is that the reader knows who committed the crime, they just want to find out what happens to Mary after she has killed Patrick. The language of “The Speckled Band” is quite antiquated and outdated, using large and grand words to describe the most trivial of things, but it was the way in which you would speak and write at that time in history.

Lets not forget that a century has passed since the writing of this story, and with it, the culture and language has developed greatly, and with more words, others have been shortened, and slang language is more readily accepted in literature, and is even creeping into the dictionary in larger and larger numbers. The sentences in “The Speckled Band” are quite short, making it seem matter-of-fact, and keeping up the suspense in the story, as the reader struggles to read into the clues correctly.I think that this writing is typical of the late Victorian era, because as explained earlier, the story uses grandiose words as adjectives, just typical of everything that the British did around that time, on a large scale, and very daring, with a very proud stance. The paragraphs in the story are extremely long when Sherlock is searching for clues and investigating, but shorten dramatically when a time of great suspense comes, like the discovery of a clue, or when they are out in the dark, suspecting everything, and observing everything with the highest of scrutinies.The language in “Lamb to the Slaughter” describes more situations and human emotions than in “The Speckled band”,” which seems to detail surroundings and clues, which matter in the plot of that story, because in “Lamb to the Slaughter” we already know who the murderer is. In “The Speckled Band,” the paragraphs change their length in accordance with the storyline, but in “Lamb to the Slaughter,” Roald Dahl has changed the sentence length in accordance with the pace and suspense levels in the story.The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite.

” This sentence, as used before, is a slow and undramatic sentence, and is fairly long. “A leg of lamb. All right then, they would have lamb for supper. ” These two sentences, directly leading up to the death of Patrick Maloney, are short and succinct. This keeps the readers concentration by not boring them with long sentences that seem to drag on, but keeping them on a knife-edge, making them want to know more.The language in this story is more typical of its time, because it is set after the war, when there were major cultural changes as many people were on the move and never wanted to relive the forties ever again.

A new breed of young people started Britain afresh, rebuilding the infrastructure of the country, and bringing inevitable changes in language with their new attitude to life. I think that the most notable difference in the stories is how this story covers emotions and feelings in a very sensitive and well-documented manner.Arthur Conan Doyle portrays his main characters as stereotypes of what we think of the Victorian middle classes. The reader thinks of Sherlock’s image as a thirty to forty year old man who has a wonderful eye for detail, wears a long coat and deer hunting hat, smokes a pipe, and drinks brandy, while living in an affluent area of London, not in the slums, where at that point in history, Jack the ripper was paying rather unfriendly visits to the Whitechapel ladies who for a small amount of money would help you get some good old Victorian London satisfaction.Dr. Watson conjures up the image of a moustachioed, portly fellow, with a monocle or glasses, and a penchant for whisky, maybe in his fifties and someone that Holmes befriended in his younger days as a detective.

However, these images are influenced by the legend that is Sherlock Holmes, and there have been television series based on the man and his escapades, so it is fairly hard to make up your own mind on what he may have looked like. The characters appear in the countryside and large country houses, the nicer places that on could have been associated with in the era that it is set in.It is more effective to make up your own mind rather than be told what he looked like, because it helps the feeling of escapism and fantasy that one gets when reading a good book. I think that the characters are reflective of the values of the Victorians. For example, our heroes are middle class, well spoken gentlemen who are helping a young maiden in her hour of need, whilst the descriptions of Dr. Grimesby-Roylott bring to my mind the image of a dirty, oldish man, who drinks too much, is unshaven, portly and coarsely spoke.

He will have been frowned upon by society, also, as it was considered most ungentlemanly to hit a poor, defenceless young woman. Roald Dahl doesn’t really describe his characters in great detail, as it allows the reader to live the fantasy, and escape, so that they may see the characters in an image that they create. I think that the ability to let a readers mind run loose with the parameters of a character, then come up with someone that you want is a great way to involve the reader in the story.Mary’s soft mouth, placid eyes and shining skin are the only personal features mentioned in the story, but created for me the image of a small, timid and dainty woman, deeply in love with her husband, and eager to have a healthy baby and raise a family with Patrick, until, of course, this illusion is shattered when she kills Patrick. Roald Dahl tells us more of what Mary is thinking because a reader can respond and empathise when we know a characters thoughts and feelings.I think that Mary and Patrick were quite stereotypical of the British population in the 1950’s, when a man would go out to work, and a woman would stay and make home, cleaning and cooking, but not with the killing, obviously. I don’t think that there is any distinction between good and evil here, as the reader builds up an image of a woman under pressure, but the police would be looking for an evil minded cold blooded killer, as popular culture was on Mary’s side, and no-one would suspect a timid little wife in those days, especially not one that was married to a police officer.

Roald Dahl makes his characters seem normal by documenting the normal things that a young couple would do, like when Mary gets Patrick a drink, asks him as to what he wants for supper, and whether he would like his slippers fetching. Everything is normal about this couple, but that all changes when Mary murders Patrick. Apart from Patrick’s terrible news for Mary that is the only abnormal thing in their relationship up to that point.

Even though these stories are classed to be in the same genre, and that is detective stories, I would say that they are at opposite ends of the scale.The only similarity that I would note is that both of the stories involve murder. I don’t think that you can really criticise a Sherlock Holmes story in the detective genre, because Holmes simply is the detective genre. He started it off, and probably is the world’s greatest sleuth. I preferred “The Speckled Band” out of the two stories due to its depth and complex storyline, whereas “Lamb to the Slaughter” is a bit too short for me, even thought that it is meant to be a short story, after all, but I must say I prefer more twists and turns in such a tale, and “The Speckled Band” provides that for me.