Comparing Sherlock Holmes ‘the Speckled Band’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’

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Comparing the two stories ‘The Adventures of the Speckled Band’ and ‘The Lamb to the Slaughter’ Within this essay I will be comparing and contrasting the two detective stories ‘The Adventures of the Speckled Band’ and ‘The Lamb to the Slaughter’, referring to the structure, language and characterisation. ‘The speckled band’ was written in 1892 by Sir Arthur Doyle, he was qualified as a doctor which gave him a medical perspective for all his stories. The lamb to the slaughter’ was written in 1952 by Roald Dahl most famous for writing children’s stories although he did write adult material such as the book ‘The lamb to the slaughter featured in ‘The tales of the unexpected’. Detective stories mainly base themselves around solving murder cases; the reader is taken on a journey to find who is guilty and their motive which is normally along the lines of greed, loneliness and hatred. ‘The speckled band’ is written in 1st person and the story is narrated by Dr Watson, Sherlock’s partner and dear friend.

The story begins with Dr Watson looking over his old notes and introducing us to his views and feelings on Sherlock Holmes and his amazing talent for solving murder mysteries. We are taken ba He also uses individual words which manifold wickedness of human hard, ‘horror’ to emphasis the atmosphere. The language is typical of the Victorian era as everyone spoke very formally. The main characters in the speckled band are all portrayed as stereotypical men and women of the Victorian era with typical values of that time.

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For example men were thought to be of more importance and had authority over women. Sherlock has a strong personality portrayed at points like when he says ‘you must not fear’ indicating he is strong and will save everyone. The men of Victorian time where made out to be very intelligent, Sherlock ponders the details of the case whilst staring into the fire. Sherlock has the answers to everything and notices the finest details. Whereas the women in this case Helen Stoner, are portrayed as helpless, pathetic and dependant on men.

The female personality emphasises male characters ability to handle a situation. The fact that Helen Stoner lives in ‘fear’ and desperately needs Sherlock’s help to solve the case conveys her dependence on men. The lamb to the slaughter has a lot shorter snappier sentences leaving room for imagination. In comparison to the speckled band it is a lot easier to follow and quicker to read. This allows the reader to imagine the story in their own way. The short sentences build up the tension bracing you for the sudden event.

At the beginning of the story the sentences are slightly longer and more descriptive then the main section in the middle. ‘The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. ’ The longer sentences at the beginning make the reader feel as thought they are there observing the description. The most dramatic point in the story is when Mary Maloney killed her husband with a leg of lamb, it happens very unexpectedly.

Even though the event took place early on in the story Roald Dahl is able to keep the reader interested because they would want to know her reaction and he outcome. The story ends with the detectives eating the murder weapon without realising they were eating the evidence. The last sentence of the story is ‘And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle’ this describes her ironic laughter and the fact that she was able to fool the detectives.

I personally preferred The Lamb to the Slaughter because it was much more understandable therefore more enjoyable. Although S When reading the two short stories I noticed that in the Lamb to the slaughter the story was being told by a narrator and we were following the story though Mary Maloney’s eyes and how she feels, In The Speckled Band the story was being told by doctor Watson and how he feels about Sherlock Holmes and the case and also he added what he thought might of happened.

Also The Speckled Band seems to be a true Murder Mystery because we don’t know who killed Helen’s sister so it is a mystery to us as well as the characters and that adds suspense to the story and also is more interesting as we try to work out who is the murderer and how they killed the person, but in Lamb to the Slaughter we knew that Mary killed her husband and the only suspense was if the detectives will work out that Mary killed him.

The stories both have different layouts and are written differently, In Lamb to the Slaughter all of the action takes place in one night and In one house, In The Speckled band the story is set around eight years from the moment the twins mother dies, the way it is told allows the story to swift back and forth in time.

The Speckled Band is different to Lamb to the Slaughter in the way it is set In the Band Helen goes and gets Sherlock Holmes but in Slaughter Mary the murderer calls the police. Even though the stories are very different there are some similarities between them, both of the stories had family members kill the victim, this must be a good plot to use as it adds suspense to the story and intrigues the readers on how they could have hurt someone they both love.

I think the murderers were both cleverly described in the stories, in the lamb to the slaughter Roald Dahl described Mary Maloney as a loving women, who cared and loved her husband a lot, “Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer to the time when he would come. ” Mary and her husband seem to have a good life together and their life seems to be on a routine. When the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen, and a few minutes later, punctually as always, she heard the tyres on the gravel outside. ” The way they are described is as if the same thing happens each week and every day at the same time. I think Roald Dahl does this to make it seem out of the ordinary when Patrick Maloney did not want to go out to supper on a Thursday.

This would make us think something is about to happen what does not usually happen, Roald Dahl is very clever by the way he doesn’t tell us what Mr. Maloney told Mrs. Maloney this adds a little suspense to the story by making the readers wonder what Patrick could have done so bad that would make her want to kill her husband, Mary tries to carry on as normal after finding out the news, The murder was unplanned as she acted on the moment, this was different to the murder in The Speckled Band as that took years of planning.

The planning of the murder and attempted murder involved the placing of the air vent and the fake bell pull and bolting down the bed to the floor, Also Dr Roylott had to train the snake to do as he wanted and to make sure that the snake would not bite him. There is one similarity between the two murderers they are both very clever, they both knew what they had to do to cover the murder up from the detectives, When Mary killed Patrick she knew she had to get a alibi, Mary used her husbands job cleverly she remembered what her husband had told her about murders and used it to her advantage.

I don’t think Mary would have thought about getting an alibi if it wasn’t for the unborn baby she was carrying. Dr Roylott knew that no doctor would be able to see the snake bites on the girl’s neck, Dr Roylott was a very clever man but he never thought though everything, the girls locked the doors and bolted the windows shut, so the girl could not have been murdered by any one because the room was locked and no one could get in so it had to be some one in the room or another way they could get access to the room.

Dr Roylott done the murders for money but Mary done the murder though anger and being hurt by someone she truly loved, and still loved “When she saw him lying there on the floor with his legs doubled up and one arm twisted back underneath his body, it really was rather a shock. All the old love and longing for him welled up inside her, and she ran over to him and began to cry her heart out. ” In both of the stories there are detectives, who try to solve the murder.

In the lamb to the slaughter the detectives seem to be unprofessional by drinking the whisky and not suspecting Mary Maloney because they knew who she was, when every thing was pointing at her, there was no sign of a break in or a struggle. It seems Roald Dahl was making fun of the police by not Making them do there job properly by letting Mary stay in the room where the murder took place without any one watching her where she could have done anything in there, and eating the meat which was the weapon. Probably right under our very noses. What you think, Jack? ” In the Speckled Band the detectives are described differently, Sherlock Holmes is put across to us a very smart and clever man. “I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm of your left glove” I think he is described that way to us because Watson is telling the story and this affects our view of him. The writer wants us to think that Sherlock and Watson are a good team and that Sherlock Holmes can handle any case together.

There are many more differences than similarities between the two stories. I think this is because the writers are two very different people and they have different backgrounds, Roald Dahl mostly wrote for children and that perhaps it is very light hearted the way that he has pops at the detectives, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor and knew all the medical views of the cases which makes his books more real and perhaps he had a more of a respect towards the police than Roald Dahl did.

The stories are different because of the time they were written, Roald Dahl wrote about a women killing her husband and that may have been less common in 1892 and that Is why Conan Doyle wrote about the women being a victim and her stepfather killing the girls The settings of the two stories are integral to creating the right mood and atmosphere. One is a derelict, sinister mansion, whilst the other is a loving, neat, orderly family home. The first of which is Doctor Roylott’s house, and the setting is perfect for the atmosphere of a murder.

It is dull, huge, scary, and furthermore its got gypsies roaming freely around the estate. The setting here is like a prison for Miss Stoner. Her house is like a prison because she has no visitors due to Dr. Roylott’s wandering wild animals, and his aggressive mood to everyone. She needs to lock her doors at night, as the animals may try to attack her. Also the village hates Doctor Roylott as he murdered his native butler and they are scared of him. Half of it is derelict and broken and there is no one near them to help so it is ideal to commit murder here, because there is so much secrecy and a sinister environment. The building was of grey, lichen-blotched stone, his a high central portion and two curving wings, like the claws of a crab, thrown out on each side” “The claws of a crab” this description makes it seem even more perfect for a murder scene, as it brings the thought of a crab crushing its prey into mind just as thought the Stoner girls are trapped in a lair of some kind. “In one of these wings, the windows were broken and blocked with wooden boards, while the roof was partly caved in, a picture of ruin” This shows the house is derelict and broken. The image is also one of neglect, as though no one really cares about the people there. The central portion was in little better repair” This shows that the rest of the building is ruined as well, the whole scene is unfriendly and frightening. The family home of the Maloney’s, however is the opposite. Its warm, cared for, light and neat. Obviously Mrs. Maloney cares for her house and how people view her status very much. “The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight… two tall glasses, soda water, whisky. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket. ” Her attention to comfort shows she is well organised and cares for her home and her husband very much.

The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, there is little suggestion of a murder here. “There’s plenty of meat, and stuff in the freezer” She keeps her house well stocked with food; this house isn’t a typical murder scene, it’s a scene of domestic contentment. They seem to have an easy, happy life at this point. 1. The language used in the story is deceptively simple. A man’s skull “was smashed all to pieces”, yet the reader, like Mary Maloney who actually “(begins) to giggle” at the story’s conclusion, ends up rooting for the murderer with macabre delight.

Mary’s ingenuity overshadows the moral implications of the fact that she has just killed her husband in cold blood; the author succeeds in completely subverting the reader’s expectations by creating a mood of lightness in a situation that is in reality totally dark. From the very beginning, Dahl describes a mood of domestic tranquility, setting the tone by using descriptive phrases such as “the room was warm and clean”, “without anxiety”, “slow smiling”, “curiously tranquil”, “placid look”, “blissful time of day”.

The murder itself happens quickly, and is described almost routinely – “Mary… simply walked up… and without any pause… brought (the frozen leg of lamb) down as hard as she could on the back of his head”. After a brief moment of panic, Mary begins to plan her alibi, and her actions are described with short, simple sentences corresponding with her almost blithe efforts to “do everything right and natural”. Mary’s plan is devilishly simple, and she does what she has to do “brightly”, with her “brightest smile”, “humming”, and “smiling”.

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Comparing Sherlock Holmes ‘the Speckled Band’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’. (2018, Feb 25). Retrieved from

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