Both the Adventure Essay
Both the Adventure
Both the Adventure of the Speckled Band and Lamb to the Slaughter share some characteristics of murder mysteries. Which story is the most typical one? Which story is most successful in creating suspense? Attracting readers of all ages for hundreds of years, it is evident through these two stories that the murder mystery genre has evolved from a more stereotypical “whodunit” structure, however still continuing to enthral its reader by creating a sense of the unexpected, and engaging them in anxiety through the effective use of language and characters.
The Speckled Band and Lamb to the Slaughter share characteristics of murder mysteries and demonstrate the significant difference, which has changed the typical structure through the years. The Speckled Band written in the Victorian times (1882) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle during the reign of Queen Victoria, features one of the finest ever adventures of the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes whereas on the other hand Lamb to the Slaughter demonstrates a less predictable or typical “whodunit” structure written in the 1950’s by Roald Dahl.
Those essential elements of a murder mystery are witnessed in both stories including the detectives, villains, motives, atmosphere, and the narration allowing the reader a more direct participation. The Speckled Band looks at how a tragic death has left Helen Stoner, who lives in Stoke Moran with her stepfather, extremely frightened. Helen’s sister Julia died in mysterious circumstances just prior to her marriage, and Julia had spoken to Helen about a low whistling sound she had heard in the night just before she died, and she said something to Helen about a Speckled Band she had seen.
Helen goes to visit Sherlock Holmes and she reveals that an agreement was made, whereby all her mother’s money would go to Dr Roylott (her stepfather), ‘with a provision that a certain annual sum should be allowed for each of us in the event of our marriage’. After investigation, Holmes later finds out that each sister would get i?? 250, which at the time was a great deal of money. The reader sees a clear motive for the murder of Julia Stoner, as she was about to inherit a huge sum of money, which her stepfather would have to give.
The reader is lead to believe that because Dr Roylott would have to give a large sum of money to both the girls this may be his motive for murdering Helen prior to her marriage. Helen also therefore appears to be in danger building the suspense from early in the plot. The story then goes on to look at the typical detective manner of Sherlock Holmes, who uncovers the truth behind the unexpected death of Julia Stoner, always accompanied by his friend Dr Watson from whom the adventure is seen through, allowing the reader an immediate involvement in the mystery and a force to believe Dr Watson.
Holmes and Watson work on various clues with the help of Helen to find out that it was a snake let out by Dr Roylott that killed Julia. Sir Conan Doyle wrote detective fiction in the Speckled Band for a reader who would appreciate the traditional structure, adapting from a more serious, realistic Victorian lifestyle where the doctors were of a higher society. The story gives the reader a hint or motive for murder in the very beginning whereas on the other hand Lamb to the Slaughter, holds back a lot of information and tricks the reader, giving a more unexpected approach and a less typical one such as the Speckled Band.
The audience had a different liking and therefore The Speckled Band was more popular compared to a more varied approach, which is popular with the modern audience. The Speckled Band is written looking at the Victorian lifestyle therefore looking at the traditional views. This reflects the story’s structure as it is set in an old mansion in mysterious surroundings, which was a traditional setting. Sir Conan Doyle’s story revolves around the character of the detective, Sherlock Holmes, which is a preferred technique of mystery novelists, probably because it leaves a place for sequel.
The story, though centred on Holmes, is told as seen through the eyes of his companion, Dr Watson, providing a good example of writing in the first person. The Speckled Band was published in a magazine called the Strand magazine, which gave short chapters every week, therefore always leaving the reader in suspense, guessing until the next chapter was published. There are many things that tell us that this story was written in the late 19th century, for example Helen Stoner arrived by “dog-cart”.
Miss Stoner is dressed in all black and wearing a veil, possibly suggesting that she is in mourning which was common at the time when someone close to you died. In the Victorian times middle class women were very dependent on their husband and were therefore without very much independence. We know this because Holmes says “when young ladies wander about the metropolis at this hour of the morning, and knock sleepy people up out of their beds, I presume that it is something very pressing which they have to communicate”, suggesting that the woman wouldn’t come at this time for no reason.
It also suggests that for this reason he is interested in why this woman is here therefore first calling Dr Watson to meet her too. In contrast, Lamb to the Slaughter is probably set in a house in an American suburb. The story gives the first image of a devoted housewife who has an understandable love for her house. Everything is done, as if to perfection as Dahl presents her surroundings as clean, comfortable and peaceful. “The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight-hers and the one by the empty chair opposite.
” This suggests that she has made sure everything is prepared for her husband’s arrival as she has even lit the table lamp beside the empty chair. The story is seen from Mary’s perspective however it is written in a third person narration (omniscient narrator); this allows the reader to picture the story from her perspective and gets a greater depth into her character. This is not very typical of the murder mystery genre as usually the story is seen through the detective, victim or from another perspective but it is not common to be from the murderer’s view.
Dahl has used a very untypical narration, which works very well to see a character in depth. This also makes the reader sympathise for Mary, as the narrator seems to do. Secondly Dahl describes Mary as a pregnant woman with soft, loveable features and a skin that has “a wonderful translucent quality”. This makes the reader now care for Mary and makes her a perfect victim being weak and a woman. It appears that Mary waits patiently every day for her husband to arrive from work and is overjoyed at his arrival.