The Adventure of The Speckled Band
The Middle-Class Hero: Morality and Chivalry in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
In the late nineteenth century, the middle class of England became more numerous and therefore more important as an audience of art and literature. The middle class began to form its own identity separate from the aristocracy, which included beliefs such as acting as a gentleman and being deferential towards women. These values were reincarnations of those from the feudal era (Isokoski 14). Specifically, the middle class of this time period favoured acting morally, meaning “holding or manifesting high principles for proper conduct” (“Moral”), and chivalry, meaning “courteous behaviour, especially that of a man toward women” (“Chivalry”). Sherlock Holmes, the main character of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published in The Strand magazine, is representative of the middle class of Victorian England through incarnating the values of acting morally and of chivalry towards women in the stories “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet”, “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, “The Five Orange Pips”, “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, despite Holmes showing the opposite characteristics sometimes. This demonstrates that Doyle intended for his target audience, the average male middle-class reader, to find Holmes’ character to be a hero.
Firstly, Sherlock Holmes embodies the Victorian middle-class value of acting according to his own moral code when interacting with or talking about his clients and their associates. He is courteous towards their needs, shows empathy in regard to their plights and feels responsible for their fates. Holmes considers himself a man of decency who sees to it that his clients trust him, and he often refuses a reward for his detective work. For example, in “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, Holmes does not turn in a murderer, John Turner, who is dying of diabetes and says to Turner in response to what Holmes intends to do, “In view of your health, nothing. You are yourself aware that you will soon have to answer for your deed at a higher court than the Assizes. … and your secret, whether you be alive or dead, shall be safe with us.” (Doyle 96). Holmes does not consider himself bound by the rules given to police constables and therefore does not follow the law in this instance because he feels pity for Turner’s bad health and reasons for killing the murder victim (protecting Turner’s daughter). This is supported by John Greenfield, who wrote that Doyle’s detective stories “embody the ideological assumptions of the class served by the periodicals for which the stories were produced: the rising professional middle class. These ideological assumptions, or values, include … placing a higher justice above strictly legal concerns.” (Greenfield 19-20). In like manner, in “The Five Orange Pips”, when Holmes’ client is killed by the society that was threatening him, the Ku Klux Klan, Holmes says to Dr. Watson, “That he should come to me for help, and that I should send him away to his death -!” (Doyle 114). Holmes feels guilty that he could not help his client escape his pursuers before they caught up with him, since Holmes takes it upon himself to keep his client safe. He even gives his client instructions on how to stay safe on his way home (Doyle 108). Similarly, in “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet”, upon seeing a distraught client enter their room, Holmes “pushed him down into the easy chair and, sitting beside him, patted his hand and chatted with him in the easy, soothing tones which he knew so well how to employ.” (Doyle 239). Holmes is following his own moral of attending to his client’s needs by easing the client’s fears enough that he would calm down and Holmes could help with the case. In all of these cases, Holmes exemplifies acting morally, one of the key attributes of the middle-class identity of Victorian-era England. This helps the male reader to better relate to Holmes and find his detective work uplifting and reassuring as a hero’s struggle against injustice and criminals.
At the same time, Holmes expresses gallant behaviour towards women during his cases, which is one of the components of the Victorian-era middle class. He attempts to calm or protect women, since he views it as his duty as a gentleman. Notably, in “A Scandal in Bohemia”, Holmes “dashed into the crowd to protect the lady” when Irene Adler was apparently threatened by a gang of men fighting over the right to help her down from her carriage (Doyle 19). Despite the fact that Holmes is in disguise as a clergyman at that time and is manipulating Adler by hiring a group of men to pretend to fight, Holmes’ intention is never to hurt her through his manipulation. As Dr. Watson says, “After all, … we are not injuring her. We are but preventing her from injuring another.” (Doyle 20). Likewise, in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, Holmes comforts his client, Helen Stoner, by saying reassuringly while rubbing her arm, “You must not fear. … We shall soon set matters right, I have no doubt.” (Doyle 167). Stoner had just raised her veil and revealed just how agitated and fearful she was, and Holmes treated her sympathetically. Later in the story, Holmes protects Stoner by refusing to tell her stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, of her suspicions about her stepfather’s role in her sister’s death (Doyle 177). Holmes is not motivated by a monetary reward in this case, since, as he says to Stoner, “my profession is its own reward.” (Doyle 168). Instead, he wants to protect his client’s safety, particularly because he found out that Stoner’s stepfather hurt her (Doyle 175). This is supported by John Greenfield, who wrote that one of the middle-class values represented in the Holmes stories was “upholding gender stereotypes of heroic men and weak women in need of protection.” (Greenfield 20). Therefore, Holmes’ courteous behaviour towards women and their safety from other men is an example of how he illustrates the middle-class integrity during the Victorian era in England. Male readers would view his chivalry as a virtue of a hero, reinforcing their identity as modern knights from the feudal period.
However, there are times that Holmes does not behave according to the values of acting morally and being chivalrous towards women that were associated with the Victorian middle class. These instances do not negate the arguments that Holmes embodies the principles of acting according to one’s own conscience and gallantry because they are the result of Holmes’ best intentions. For instance, in “A Scandal in Bohemia”, Holmes fails to notice how Adler had disguised herself as a man to confirm his identity, leading to “how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a woman’s wit.” (Doyle 25). Holmes underestimated Adler after he manipulated her into revealing her hiding spot for the photograph that Holmes’ client wanted, believing that she wasn’t clever enough to determine that it was Holmes in disguise at her residence because she was a woman. In reality, she disguises herself as a man and greets Holmes in front of 221B Baker Street and he, despite knowing that she is an experienced actress, doesn’t make the connection that a random man on the street who knows his name could be Adler in disguise. Nevertheless, this does not negate the instances when Holmes is chivalrous towards women because one does not have to respect women’s intelligence to be deferential towards them. Comparatively, Holmes does not act like a gentleman in “A Case of Identity”, when he threatens James Wendibank, his client’s stepfather, by saying angrily, “It is not part of my duties to my client, but here’s a hunting crop handy, and I think I shall just treat myself to –” (Doyle 69). Holmes is not a violent person, he only threatens Wendibank because he just exposed that Wendibank manipulated his stepdaughter into heartbreak so that he could keep the money that she receives as an unmarried woman. Holmes is only trying to avenge a woman’s heartbreak, which is chivalrous. Equally important, Holmes does not speak like a gentleman in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” when he says to Dr. Watson, “In this way 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.” (Doyle 191). Holmes is talking about how he accidentally caused Dr. Roylott’s death by striking the snake that the doctor sent to kill his stepdaughter, Helen Stoner. Since Holmes wants to protect Stoner from her abusive stepfather, he does not feel guilty for accidentally killing someone, even though he normally would. The latter two instances demonstrate how Holmes is a middle-class hero because he is shown to be protective of women, thus further ingratiating the character with male readers.
In conclusion, Sherlock Holmes manifests the late nineteenth-century values of the English middle class of being principled and of being courteous towards women through various stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, thus demonstrating that Doyle was catering to his average male reader of the ever-increasing middle class by making Holmes into a reassuring hero. Despite the fact that the character sometimes acted against these values and was a product of Doyle’s time, Holmes still behaved with the intention of protecting women. Doyle’s invention of a middle-class hero signifies that Holmes is a cultural and societal response to the demands of a growing social class that wanted to see a character like themselves in literature who could solve the problems they sometimes faced. This is supported by Pound, who wrote, “The middle classes of England never cast a clearer image of themselves in print than they did in The Strand Magazine.” (qtd. in Clarke 76). While both Holmes and Dr. Watson were of the middle class, it can be argued that Dr. Watson’s role as a first-person narrator of Holmes’ cases is indicative of how Doyle created a representative of the reader who was imbued with characteristics from both the middle class and from Doyle himself.
- “Chivalry.” Oxford New American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015.
- Clarke, Clare. “Professionalism and the Cultural Politics of Work in the Sherlock Holmes Stories.” The Masculine Middlebrow, 1880-1950: What Mr. Miniver Read, edited by Kate Macdonald, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, pp. 73-89.
- Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Harper Collins Publishers, 2016.
- Greenfield, John. “Arthur Morrison’s Sherlock Clone: Martin Hewitt, Victorian Values, and London Magazine Culture, 1894-1903.” Victorian Periodicals Review, vol. 23, no. 1, 2002, pp. 18-36. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20083856.
- Isokoski, Mari. The Victorian Middle Class, Imperialist Attitude and Women in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Adventures. 2008. University of Tampere, Master’s Thesis.
- “Moral.” Oxford New American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015.
The Hodgson’s and Knight’s Essays on The Adventure of the Speckled Band
The essays by John A. Hodgson and Stephen Knight use differing approaches to look at one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales – The Adventure of the Speckled Band. While Hodgson examines the methodology of the work, its “… narrative, deduction, and plot” (Hodgson, back cover copy), Knight sees the works “…culturally, emphasizing social, historical, ideological, and gender issues” (Hodgson, back cover copy). Put simply, Hodgson examines Doyle’s works and their overall success through a critical literary analysis perspective, while Knight opts to examine Doyle’s work within it’s focused sociocultural framework.
The Hodgson’s Analysis
Hodgson begins his analysis by outlining what he believes are the traditional and necessary qualities of both the overall mystery story and the detective character. To Hodgson, it is crucial that detective fiction abides by realism, instead of falling victim to aggrandizement and fabrication (Hodgson, 335-336). Hodgson believes that a good detective character should be scientific and able to solve the case because of his own intelligence (Hodgson, 337). In addition, he finds it key that the detective is able to relate to the criminal in some sense, allowing for the detective to understand the mindset of the criminal and solve the case (Hodgson, 339). Hodgson argues that Doyle manipulates these precedents in The Adventure of The Specked Band in order to revamp how detective fiction is read and how truth can be interpreted.
In his essay, Hodgson argues that Doyle’s use of flawed logic, which goes against the traditional structure of other detective stories, allows for the rules of the genre to be rewritten. He cites The Adventure of The Speckled Band, of which he says “… [the story] commits a literary crime by breaking the laws of its genre, it nevertheless works also to detect this crime and to resolve it – which is to say, it remains true to its genre. … ‘The Speckled Band’ is, then, something like a critical work masquerading as a literary one: it is not about detecting a crime, but about defining a crime-detecting genre” (Hodgson, Pg. 345). Hodgson admits that Doyle does utilize some of the traditional elements of detective stories, but goes above and beyond by blending together what Hodgson describes as two different levels of crime: the one committed by Roylott in the actual plot of the story and the one committed by Doyle against his audience (Hodgson, 345-346). The crime here is that Doyle seeks to deliberately confuse his audience with the incorporation of the non-existent snake, forcing them to overlook the literal plot of The Adventure of The Specked Band and understand the deeper discourse of the piece (Hodgson, 345). Hodgson writes, “…the detective story is a veritable game between two players, the author and the reader… We, in turn …must read its literal clues figuratively, recognizing them as features not of an actual scene, but of a textual one” (Hodgson, Pg. 340 – 343).
The Knight’s Analysis
While Hodgson was incredibly critical of the literary structure of Doyle’s story, Knight instead focused on Doyle’s ability to embody the fears and morals of Victorian society within the characters of his works. Knight chalks up his capability to do so as the reason why the character of Sherlock Holmes was so wildly successful. He writes that Doyle composed fiction “… the old-fashioned way; his imagination created issues that were of importance in his period. One of the reasons he was able to imagine such effective fables of anxiety and comfort for his audience was that he was himself one of them” (Knight, Pg. 372). Knight agrees with Hodgson in that proper detective character is one who utilizes science and rational thought (Knight, 369). However, Knight also believes that certain eccentricities are needed to distinguish the detective from other more average characters, which is why Holmes partakes in drug usage and the arts (Knight, 369).
Knight goes on to discuss the manner in which Doyle was able to incorporate Victorian values into his works. As seen in The Adventure of The Speckled Band, the bourgeois family was often the target of crimes within Doyle’s stories, with the crime often being committed by a member of this class. These crimes were often committed as a result of two fears: financial greed and oppression of women. Financial greed was incredibly disgraceful in this era, as it contradicted the more favored concept of individualism that was rationalized through reason (Knight, 371). Without reason and self-control, financial endeavors would bring unwanted disorder to the lives of members of the middle class, which is why Doyle manipulated this fear (Knight, 372). Knight emphasizes oppression of women due to their sexual power in his analysis. He states that order of the bourgeoisie relied heavily upon this imbalance in power, for when it is recognized, it can completely dismantle the basic social order (Knight, 374 – 375). Women are painted as dangerous creatures in Doyle’s stories, which is why Knight believe Doyle chooses to have both his detective and sidekick character remain relatively romantically distant from female characters (Knight, 378).
In the end, Hodgson is obsessed with the integrity of literary structure, but comes to appreciate that there can be more than one story to solve within a detective story, particularly in The Adventure of The Speckled Band. Knight, alternately, appreciated the accurate reflection of societal fears of Doyle’s time. Though neither essay indicates why the writers chose the approaches they did, I believe that Hodgson and Knight were impressed with and valued Doyle’s writing ability.
“The Adventure of the Speckled Band”: Identifying with Entertainment
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” attends to the entertainment value. This value comes from all the characters bringing something interesting to the story.
The Humor in the Episode
One entertainment aspect Doyle included is “‘Ha! You put me off, do you?’ said our new visitor, taking a step forward and shaking his hunting-crop./ ‘I know you, you scoundrel! I have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the meddler.’/My friend smiled./ ‘Holmes, the busybody!’/ His smile broadened./‘Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!’/ Holmes chuckled heartily. ‘Your conversation is most entertaining,’ said he. ‘When you go out close the door, for there is a decided draught’”(Doyle). This quote relates to the conversation between the two as he jokingly calls him different names and “job titles” that he holds to make Holmes laugh. Holmes replies back to him in a jokingly manner which pushes the entertainment and the humor aspect more in the story. “‘I will go when I have said 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! See here’”(Doyle). After Holmes made this comment, the conversation makes it seem as it is a shift because he involved someone who is closely related back to the character he has a conversation with which pushes to a kind of serious scene.
The Change of Tone
The scene which made the story lose its sense of humor is the conversation between Mrs. Stoner and Holmes. Holmes asked her who she was related to because her name sounded fairly familiar. She replied to him, ‘My name is Helen Stoner, and I am living with my stepfather, who is the last survivor of one of the oldest Saxon families in England, the Roylotts of Stoke Moran, on the western border of Surrey’”(Doyle). He realized that the Rylotts were married to her mom and had her and her sister, Julia while they were married during the time. The tone switches in the story because she talks about the death of her mother and sister and how her stepfather did not do much during this time. Instead, he gave everyone demands such as “he hurled the local blacksmith over a parapet into a stream, and it was only by paying over all the money which I could gather together that I was able to avert another public exposure”(Doyle). He was lonely and having “power” was the only way he could reach people.
The Purpose of Doyle’s Humor
Doyle’s humor in the story gives some light-heartedness in a serious scene. This makes the adventure of the detective more entertaining. Another entertaining moment in the story is as follows, “‘Was it your custom always to lock yourselves in at night?’/‘Always.’/‘And why?’/‘I think that I mentioned to you that the doctor kept a cheetah and a baboon. We had no feeling of security unless our doors were locked.’/‘Quite so. Pray proceed with your statement.’”(Doyle) This conversation between Holmes and the detective was very nonchalant which is very smart and a little teasing. Another entertaining aspect of this quote is someone would keep a cheetah and a baboon as pets during the Victorian time period.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle pushes his ideas by making serious scenes more humor to lighten the tone and mood of the story when it is being told. These actions are to make it more pleasing to the reader.
Sherlock Holmes’ Case in The Red-Headed League: One of the Many Mysteries Cracked by the Detective
THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a mystery. It is about a private detective and his assistant. The detectives name was Sherlock Holmes and the assistants name was Dr. Watson. Together these two solve 12 thrilling mysteries.
Such Mysteries include A scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, and The Speckled Band. These mysteries vary in different plots. The typical plot is as follows. Usually a client comes to Holmes and Watson with a problem. The client tells the story as it happened, and Holmes decides whether to accept the case. He always accepts. Then he goes about his business to solve the case. After he figures it out himself, he catches the criminal. Then when Watson questions the case, Holmes explains his thinkings. Which I admit are odd.
A great mystery is the Red-Headed League. It was about a man whos name was Jabez Wilson who owns a pawnshop. He reads about an exclusive club that only excepts men with red hair. He leaves his shop and gets accepted to the club. He joins, but after a few months, he finds that the club all together has ended. He then seeks Sherlock Holmes expertise. Holmes then goes to the shop to investigate. There he discovers vital clues to solve the mystery. Without further adieu he got together with the police, and hid in the cellar of the shop. They then hid until the criminals came and caught them. These criminals were none other than the same cheaters who invented the fake club, and the young boy who was looking after the shop while, Mr. Wilson was at the club. How did Mr. Holmes know about the robbery? Well when he went to the shop to investigate, he actually tapped the ground in front of the shop door. There he discovers that it sounds hollow. To really finish it off, when he rings the bell, the young boy opens the door. Holmes notices that the boys pants are dusty and dirty. From this Holmes deducted that they in fact were building a tunnel to steal the goods and money from the cellar of the shop. The Red-Headed League was just a diversion to get Mr. Wilson away from his shop. Once again Holmes has amazed us.
If needed to read one book, I would strongly recommend it, especially for the mystery lovers. It has everything you need and want in a book. It has suspense, surprise, and fun. Although I recommend it, if you do not enjoy mysteries you probably wont buy this book. But I disagree with that. Like I said no matter what kind of books you enjoy, you would definitely like this book.
SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERIES:
A Scandal in Bohemia
A Case of Identity
The Red- Headed League
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Five Orange Pips
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Blue Carbuncle
The Speckled Band
The Engineers Thumb
The Noble Bachelor
The Beryl Coronet
The Copper Beeches
The Concept of Good Concerning the Evil in The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Thematic Essay: Good Always Conquers Evil
Sherlock Holmes is a name widely known around the world. Known for his amazing ability to solve difficult cases using his sharp observation skills and his logical reasoning, Sherlock Holmes is an inspiration for many people. This invincible detective, alas, is only a fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Even so, Sherlock Holmes, with his talent to solve any crime, gives people the impression that justice always prevails and that criminals will always be caught and punished. In “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the sensory imagery, dialogue, and resolution of the story help develop the idea that good always conquers evil.
The sensory imagery in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” supports the fact that Sherlock is very thorough in his observations. During Helen Stoner’s visit, with only a quick glance at her, Sherlock perceives even the slightest detail. “Holmes pushed back the frill of black lace which fringed the hand that lay upon our visitor’s knee. Five little livid spots, the marks of four fingers and a thumb, were printed upon the white wrist” (Doyle 147). With that single glance, Sherlock notices the bruises on the lady’s wrist and he comes to the accurate conclusion that she has been cruelly abused by her stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Roylott. The bruises implicate Dr. Roylott as the possible perpetrator of the murder of Helen’s twin sister, Julia. In addition, Sherlock’s investigation of Helen’s home shows how he gives careful attention to every detail. “He threw himself down upon his face with his lens in his hand and crawled swiftly backward and forward, examining minutely the cracks between the boards. Then he did the same with the wood-work with which the chamber was paneled. Finally he walked over to the bed and spent some time in staring at it and in running his eye up and down the wall” (151). Through this quote, Sherlock’s fastidiousness is clearly shown. This trait is also depicted when “he [Sherlock] squatted down in front of the wooden chair and examined the seat of it with the greatest attention” (152). Although inspecting floorboards, walls, and chairs is quite unorthodox, Sherlock’s meticulousness is essentially what helps him solve the case.
The dialogue within this short story portrays Sherlock’s confidence in his abilities. “‘When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession. This man [Dr. Roylott] strikes even deeper, but I think, Watson, that we shall be able to strike deeper still’” (154). From this quote, it is understood that although Dr. Roylott is one of the most cunning criminals there is, Sherlock is confident in his own ability to outsmart the doctor. This is most clearly shown when Sherlock says, “‘He must guard himself, for he may find that there is someone more cunning than himself upon his track’” (150). Furthermore, Sherlock’s confidence is shown through his calm attitude. “‘I should be very much obliged if you would slip your revolver into your pocket . . . That and a tooth-brush are, I think all that we need’” (149). The way Sherlock casually tells Watson to bring a toothbrush makes it seem like the situation is not dangerous at all and that Sherlock has everything under control. Sherlock’s confidence gives the impression that he can confront any obstacles and defeat any criminal.
The resolution in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” shows how Sherlock finally defeats the antagonist of the story, Dr. Roylott. “The instant that we heard it, Holmes sprang from the bed, struck a match, and lashed furiously with his cane at the bell-pull . . . suddenly there broke from the silence of the night the most horrible cry to which I have ever listened . . . until the last echoes of it had died away into the silence from which it rose” (155). Sherlock, with his quick reaction, forced the snake to go back to where it came from, in which it then bit Dr. Roylott, ending the whole ordeal. The story ends with Sherlock saying, “‘Some of the blows of my cane came home and roused its snakish temper, so that it flew upon the first person it saw. In this way 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’” (157). From this quote, it is inferred that Sherlock does not regret his actions. The ending of the story seems to communicate the notion that the evil will be punished and that Dr. Roylott deserves his fate.
The sensory imagery, dialogue, and resolution of this story promotes the naive belief that good will always prevail. This is often not the case in reality. There are many cases where the villains are never caught and they get away with their actions. There are many cases where good is conquered by evil. Nevertheless, the stories of Sherlock Holmes and his great feats bring a sense of security to all who read them.
Narrative Techniques and Construction of the Mystery in The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Creating a mystery is a very complex process because there are certain criteria that one must follow. The author must craft their piece in such a way that the readers are unable to determine the outcome, while still dropping all the right hints to make them try anyways. Conan Doyle was able to keep the readers’ interests in his short story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, while abiding by the guidelines of a mystery. He engages his readers by playfully dropping clues and red herrings that steer them off the path of figuring out the ending. Once the readers reach the end, they are in for a pleasant surprise.
Every mystery must contain clues in order for the detective to piece together the story of what happened and who had committed the crime. A common trend in the Mystery genre is to impose a signifier upon the readers (in the form of a clue) without revealing the signified until later. Conan Doyle enjoys introducing a sign without a meaning to hold his readers’ attention. “Did you observe anything very peculiar about that bed?” “No.” “It was clamped to the floor. Did you ever see a bed fastened like that before?” “I cannot say that I have” (109). In this passage, Holmes asks Watson if he has ever seen a bed fastened like that before. When Watson says that he hasn’t, a red flag rises in the minds of Doyle’s audience. The bed that is fastened is a sign, but the readers have yet to find out why, what it means, and how this relates to the mystery. As his readers flip pages, their hunger to connect the signifier with the signified increases. They are instantly filled with an uneasy feeling that does not leave them until they terminate the story and all the loose ends are tied up. This is how he ensures that his audience will be able to reach the end of his short story, by appealing to the curiosity in every human. They are eager to read on and find the next clue to try to solve the mystery.
Red Herrings are utilized in mysteries to accomplish a goal; to lure the readers away from the actual ending. In making them believe the real killer is someone else or that the means of killing is different from what actually happened, this makes the real explanation even harder to predict. “Ah, and what did you gather from this allusion to a speckled band?” “Sometimes I have thought that it was merely the wild talk of delirium, sometimes that it may have referred to some band of people, perhaps to these very gipsies in the plantation. I do not know whether the spotted handkerchiefs which so many of them wear over their heads might have suggested the strange adjective which she used.” (103). In this passage, the author cleverly masks the real turnout, the poisonous snake bite killing the girl, and replaces it in the readers’ minds as the Gipsies being the killers because they wear “speckled bands” on their heads and that could be what the dying girl meant when she said “It was the band! The speckled band!” (102). He also disguises the word “band” as a group of people (the gipsies) rather than as a band that can wrap around someone, and further yet from the truth of the band being a snake. The readers are filled with delight as they attempt to piece together the story. As the readers come to know the full story, they realize that all the information was there, and that the mention of the gipsies had been the reason that their minds had rejected the possibility of the band being a snake. The attempt to piece together the story is what held the audience’s interest.
It is clear that Conan Doyle understands his audience because he knows how to hold their attention. He employs clues and red herrings to keep the readers guessing and on their toes. Doyle has the ability to convince an audience that they have the mystery figured out, but once the ending is revealed the readers are left with a satisfied feeling even though they were unsuccessful in predicting the end. The outcome makes sense to the readers, which demonstrates that Doyle has played fairly and that he abided by the rules of a mystery.
Literary Analysis of the Setting, Characters and Structure of The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Sir Author Conan Doyle was most popular for his detective fiction short stories starring the famous character Sherlock Holmes. He used various writing techniques to create suspenseful short stories to gain credit for creating the most popular fiction detective of all time. Doyle became an expert at detective fiction because of his ability to use different writing styles and methods to create exciting stories filled with anticipation and tension. One of the greatest examples is “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” where Doyle’s use of characterization, setting, and story structure contribute to combining a horror gothic and a detective fiction into an exciting short story.
The use of characterization is one way Doyle creates a suspenseful story. The narrator, Watson, tells the story in first person. The narrator is a partner and friend to Sherlock Holmes, yet he is not the main detective of the case. He sees the same crime scenes, same evidence, same stories of victims as Holmes, yet he never can fully solve the case himself. This is essential to creating a suspense throughout the story. Because Watson is not analytical enough to solve the cases on his own, the reader is also left clueless to solve the case. Doyle does this on purpose because if the readers knew the whole time what the mystery of the speckled band was, then there would be no excitement or tension as the readers are waiting for the case to be solved. For example, Watson and Holmes both saw the same evidence in Helen’s house, and Holmes was able to draw conclusions, while Watson stated that “(he could) not see any connection” (15) between any pieces of evidence to the crime. The reader therefore does not know how to solve the case and then can anticipate and even try to guess what the answer may be. Doyle cleverly leaves false clues throughout the piece, including adding dangerous animals and bands of gypsies. Doyle does this so the reader will have a hard time solving the case on his or her own and grow excited to finally find out what the real cause of death is. The anticipation in revealing the cause of murder builds up tension throughout the piece because of how mysterious and puzzling the case really is.
Another use of characterization that Doyle added to create an anxious and worried feeling in reader’s heads is the victim of the case, Helen. She is an innocent and helpless lady who fears for her own life. She rushes over to Holmes’s apartment early in the morning wearing a black veil over her head which she raises to reveal the terror in her eyes. She shivers and claims that the cause is not of cold but of fear, pure terror. “Her features and figure were those of a woman of thirty, but her hair was shot with premature grey, and her expression was weary and haggard” (Doyle 2). Doyle uses a helpless, scared woman as a victim to make the readers want to feel scared for her. Doyle’s use of body features and dramatization of the sense of fear that she feels is added so the readers feel that the case must be very serious and dangerous if it is taking a toll on Helen’s own physical features and mental health. The readers feel fear for Helen’s life since she is living in the same room where her own sister died and next to a man of pure evil, Dr. Roylott.
Dr. Roylott is another use of characterization added to scare the readers. The man is very violent and short tempered, and even served a sentence in prison. He is known as the terror of his village. Dr. Roylott barges in Holmes’s house and Watson describes him as a huge man with “a large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion” (8). Doyle creates the perfect villain. This man is described as an immoral, malicious person who is capable of doing awful things. The readers get a sense of uneasiness after Doyle reveals Dr. Watson’s true self because this man is living right next to the innocent and terrified Helen. He is cunning enough to track Helen, and strong enough to beat her, or possibly murder her. Helen is not safe in her home. This makes the readers feel very anxious because Helen’s own home is not safe, and she has no place to go to escape her fears.
Helen lived right next to a villainous man which is a perfect setting Doyle created to add tension to the piece. Doyle purposefully had Helen living in the same room where her own twin sister died. This adds a creepy and suspenseful mood to the entire story. The home she lives in is a huge mansion that is somewhat falling apart. Doyle creates an eerie atmosphere because the house is very old and “the windows were broken and blocked with wooden boards, while the roof was partly caved in” (11). The house is not exactly the type of place someone would place a “home sweet home” doormat in front of. The uncomfortableness of the house causes the readers to feel discomfort of their own. It is a perfect setting for a sinister crime to take place.
Doyle also uses the weather to create a creepy atmosphere to the readers. On the night of Helen’s sister’s death, “the wind was howling outside, and the rain was beating and splashing against the windows” (5). This stages the ultimate scene for a spooky crime to take place. If Doyle set the scene on a bright sunny day, rather than during a storm in the dead of the night, then the readers may feel less fearful towards the situation. Even modern suspense and horror movies use weather in their favor to create a tenacious atmosphere. Doyle foreshadows the next repeating crime when he adds that there is “a chill wind blowing” (15) on the night that Holmes and Watson stake out in Helen’s room. Doyle sets the scene to get to the fears of readers. A reader can relate to the gothic aspect of the narrative more if the surroundings are as dark and dreary as the plot.
Doyle’s gothic writing techniques used to create the plot of the story also adds to the sensational effect of the passage. Doyle creates the plot of the story so that the readers are at a sense of tension throughout the entire passage. This is because a life is on the line. If the case is not solved in time, then Helen may be killed. Doyle achieves this sense of a ticking time limit to the readers through the use of events leading up to Julia’s death correlating with similar events that Helen is going through. Julia heard a soft whistle each night days before she died. Helen says that she hears the same low whistles at night. Julia died days before her wedding. Helen is getting married soon. The readers know that it may be foreshadowing an approaching death. Sherlock then finds out that Dr. Roylott had very strong motives in standing in the way of his step-daughters’ marriages. The readers also find out that Helen was moved into Julia’s room not actually due to the construction, but because Dr. Roylott simply used the construction as an excuse to get her into the same room her sister died in. Doyle gives many clues that Dr. Roylott is attempting to murder Helen to give a sense of irrational fear to the readers because she is so close to death each and every night she sleeps in that room.
Doyle also takes advantage of smaller scenes throughout the story to create tension. One example is the night of Julia’s death. The death is rather dramatic and gothic. Helen reveals that she could not sleep that night because “a vague feeling of impending misfortune impressed (her) “(5). She says that because Julia and she were twin sisters, their souls were closely allied. The strange connection between the two sisters is a gothic approach Doyle took to writing this scene. The gothic atmosphere continues to add to the creepiness and suspense of the piece. Julia’s actual death was very dark and tragic. Helen really emphasizes the terrified look Julia had as she slowly swayed back and forth only to fall to her knees and die. She was able to get out just a few sentences before her life came to an end. Doyle’s use of a slow, dramatic death gives an atmosphere of mystery and tension.
Another scene Doyle adds to create an atmosphere of suspense is the night of Watson and Holmes’s stakeout. The detective and associate begin their night in an inn discussing the case. Holmes is at a sense of uneasiness because he thinks the case is very dangerous and horrible. He even offers Watson a pipe to “turn (their) minds for a few hours to something more cheerful” (15). Holmes is not the type of character to feel scared or worried easily so this causes the readers to also worry.
Holmes and Watson then start staking out from inside of Helen’s room. Doyle drags this scene out to create suspense. The nervous narrator states that “the parish clock boomed out every quarter of an hour. How long they seemed, those quarters! Twelve struck, and one and two and three, and still we sat waiting silently for whatever might befall” (16). The readers are left in anticipation to finally be informed on the mystery of the speckled band. The sound of a low whistle eventually appears after hours of staking out. Holmes rushes up strikes a light and lashes at the bell-pull. The horrified narrator is still clueless as to what Holmes is lashing out at. A loud “dreadful shriek” (17) is the last thing the narrator hears. Doyle adds the sudden quickness of events to create an exciting scene and to make the readers even more anticipated to find out what the speckled band is.
Doyle’s use of damsels in distress, villains, old mansions, and dark plots all contribute to making “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” a suspenseful and sensational short story. Doyle is able to get to the viewers’ emotions by creating an atmosphere of irrational fear. He fuses a classic fictional detective story with a gothic tale of fear and surprise.