Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Growing up, you may have heard of or played the game Clue. The popular board game released during the UK air raids of WWII sparked the inner detective in many. Like any good detective would do, the objective is to investigate a murder by gathering evidence throughout the rooms. When you believe you’ve solved the mystery, you may make an accusation of who you think committed the crime based on the evidence gathered. This is certainly the case for many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” specifically “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” The short story reveals a young girl named Helen Stoner in fear of her life after discovering her sister dead. She believes her stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, had something to do with it and she may be next. Holmes must put on his detective hat and find out whoever committed the crime before it’s too late. Doyle uses this conflict in the story to support his theme of greed will pave the path of one’s own self-destruction.
Greed can be seen as a strong and selfish desire for power or wealth. Doyle’s story illustrates the greed of a stepfather of two daughters after his wife passed away. The passing of his wife guaranteed Roylott inheritance money. However, because the two daughters are alive the wife made sure the girls would receive some of the money when they got married. Stoner shares that “My stepfather learned of the engagement when my sister returned and offered no objection to the marriage; but within a fortnight of the day which had been fixed for the wedding, the terrible event occurred which has deprived me of my only companion”. Stoner believes it’s not a coincidence that Roylott finds out about her sister’s marriage and dies shortly before the wedding that guarantees her money. Worried she may be his next victim as she is planning to get married in a couple of months, Stoner confides in Holmes. Holmes was able to review the will which stated that “Each daughter can claim an income of £ 250, in case of marriage. It is evident, therefore, that if both girls had married, this beauty would have had a mere pittance, while even one of them would cripple him to a very serious extent”. He makes a conclusion that Roylott knew if both girls accessed their marriage funds then there would be little to no profit for himself ruining him financially. Roylott’s desperation and greed to acquire wealth led him directly to murder Julia Stoner.
Conflict arises when Roylott himself shows up at Holme’s station. Roylott exclaims “I will go when I have had my say. Don’t you dare to meddle with my affairs. I know that Miss Stoner has been here. I traced her! I am a dangerous man to fall foul of!”. The sudden appearance of Roylott can suggest he is trying to hide something and is guilty. The readers can infer that Roylott knows the greed got the best of him and he is aware his daughter is onto something. Therefore, he must prevent Stoner from going to a private detective like Holmes if he wishes to succeed with his master plan. Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson create a plan to investigate Stoke Moran while Roylott is out. In the process, Holmes and Watson discover a ventilator and bell pull connecting to Roylott’s room. Holmes being suspicious of this observation he goes on to state that “The lady could not move her bed. It must always be in the same relative position to the ventilator and to the rope—or so we may call it since it was clearly never meant for a bell-pull”. The two detectives believe it’s not a coincidence considering Roylott is a doctor and has the knowledge.
Later that night Holmes and Watson sat quietly in the room prepared to catch whoever or whatever may have caused Julia’s death. Suddenly the sound of a kettle arose just like Stoner described to Holmes at the station. Holmes states “a very gentle, soothing sound, like that of a small jet of steam escaping continually from a kettle. The instant that we heard it, Holmes sprang from the bed, struck a match, and lashed furiously with his cane at the bell pull”. The two detectives knew something was about to go down and patiently waited for something to happen. Surely not long after a cry of pain was heard, the two rushed to Roylott’s room from where they heard the noise. Arriving, Holmes described the speckled band that constricts around Roy Lott. He states “Round his brow he had a peculiar yellow band, with brownish speckles, which seemed to be bound tightly round his head”. The readers now have a clear understanding that the speckled band stated earlier in the story before Julia died was really a deadly snake from India. Holmes concludes that Roylott lured the snake through the ventilator quickly killing Julia. After gathering all the evidence he states that “Then I thought of the whistle. Of course, he must recall the snake before the morning light revealed it to the victim. He would put it through this ventilator at the hour that he thought best, with the certainty that it would crawl down the rope and land on the bed”. The reader can conclude that Roylott had a plan all along if it meant he would obtain all the wealth. Upon finding Roylott killed, Holmes states that “Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into the pit which he digs for another”. Holmes brings up the fact that karma exists. As Roylott was digging the grave for his second murder things took a turn resulting in his own grave.
Being Greedy is one thing but murder is on a whole nother level. I will admit we all get greedy in one way or another. However, with greed, it’s tempting to continue this behavior until getting whatever it is you desire. Despite the consequences, there is an intense and strong feeling of being attracted to those of wealth, power, or anything to fulfill our own happiness. This is the case in Doyle’s short story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” The readers are presented with a conflict in interest tied to wealth. Roylott let his greed of wealth overpower him resulting in his motive to ultimately kill one of his stepdaughters and attempt the second. Doyle effectively tied the conflict of the story to the theme by creating a strong message that greed will lead to one’s own self-destruction. In this case, Roylott’s greed of wealth led to his own death. Next time you think about being greedy ask yourself what the consequences may be if you continue to allow the greed to consume you.
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