The story is called ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ and is a detective fiction. It is set in the year 1983. Evidence from the text to show this is where it says, ‘year ’83’. The main settings are Baker Street (city) and Stoke Moran (countryside).
The story is very appealing as it has use of the ‘Locked Room’ mystery; which in those days was very popular. The mentioning of exotic animals is also very exciting and has a good effect on readers. It may remind some of Edgar Allan Poes. Ferocious animals like the cheetah could be entertaining as well as slightly humorous ones like the baboon.
It is also very appealing as it has a ‘hero’ (Sherlock Holmes) and ‘villain’ (Dr Roylott).
The Speckled Band is presented as a ‘locked room’ mystery. It has good use of red herrings; distractions from the real murderer/killer. It is written in first person, which makes us more intimate with the narrator, who in this case is Dr Watson. The cheetah, baboon and the gypsies are all ‘red herrings’ and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made good use of them. Never would I have guessed that it was a snake that killed Julia although it was logical. The use of the words ‘the speckled band’ is slightly interesting to use on a snake, but also clever and mysterious. The snake was around the neck of Dr Roylott like a ‘band’ and the body of the snake was ‘speckled’, hence the title of the story: ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’.
A brief outline of ‘The Speckled Band’:- A lady by the name of ‘Helen Stoner’ sets upon her journey to the famous detective ‘Sherlock Holmes’. Whilst meeting him, she explains her crisis; her sister Julia had heard some strange whistles. She was just in the phase of getting married, but marrying someone meant that, she would gain her father’s wealth. The following few weeks, the terrible incident happened.
After explaining what had happened, Dr Watson and Holmes had a plan up their sleeves, but not before they had a close look at Dr Roylott’s mansion. In doing so, they found a few clues: a leash, a saucer, a ventilator and a rope. Of course Holmes was a bit swift to catch on this as he also deduced that the bed in Julia’s bedroom was clamped to the floor.
Finally at the end, Holmes managed to scare off the snake and it landed right back at Dr Roylott, killing him, but I doubt Holmes really cared much, in fact he probably didn’t care at all.
Sherlock Holmes is an amateur gentleman detective. When Miss Stoner discusses rewarding him financially to help her, Sherlock Holmes says that payment is unnecessary, because: ‘my profession is its own reward.’ However, he shows willingness to accept any expenses; ‘but you are at liberty to defray (repay) whatever expenses I may be put to.’
This shows that Sherlock Holmes is altruistic, but also has cheerful willingness to accept the expenses with alacrity. He is very observant and tenacious. He never lets go of an idea. When Miss Helen Stoner comes to meet him, he noticed the ‘five livid spots.’ This shows that his eyes do not miss a thing. Apart from all this, he’s clever, thoughtful and has an ironic sense of humour in that he uses baths, when he tells Dr Watson to get his ‘toothbrush’, meaning to get his revolver.
This shows us readers a bit of his personality and the way he tells jokes.
Not only that, but when Dr Roylott comes to meet him, he completely defused the situation with humour. He did this by talking about the weather, crocuses and a draught, making use of polite conversation.
Holmes is a very good listener. He’s caring, polite and reassuring to Miss Stoner.
This and other things probe that he’s gallant to ladies.
Moreover, he’s very ‘calm’ and ‘bland’, however he’s not easily satisfied.
As well as that, he’s also quite strong in that he unbends the poker.
In addition to Holmes being observant, he breathes in every detail in what he is inspecting when, ‘his eyes travelled round and round and up and down, taking in every detail of the apartment.’
This not only proves that Holmes has an excellent eye-sight, but also makes the readers think that he’ll commit it all to memory for later useful purposes.
Another thing is the fact that Holmes has a great interest in unusual ‘fantastic’ cases. This says a lot for his detective career.
Doctor Watson is a modest, self-deprecating doctor. His role in the story is pretty important as he’s the one narrating the story. He is more ordinary just like the reader, so the reader empathises with him. He is very gallant, protective and courteous to Miss Helen Stoner.
He used to be an Indian Army man proved by his possession of a service revolver.
Furthermore, Watson is an assistant, a friend and a student of Sherlock Holmes. In the narrative, Doctor Watson says that Holmes trusts him completely. Because Watson is the narrator, we don’t know if it’s just his opinions or if he’s telling the truth, So from his point of view, it seems as though Holmes trusts him completely.
Miss Helen Stoner
Miss Helen Stoner is a very respectable young woman aged around 30.
She is the victim’s sister, the victim being Miss Julia Stoner.
Her mother’s will stated that she was to be left money when she married.
Possibly for the mourning period, she was ‘dressed in black and heavily veiled.’ This may have been the dress code for the middle and upper class women in those days. This shows cultural context.
Words like ‘wretched’ make the reader feel sympathy for her.
She’s the potential victim as Dr Roylott is planning to murder her, however she’s already a victim of Dr Roylott’s violence with the ‘five livid spots’ on her wrist.
She’s very frightened and Sit Arthur Conan Doyle uses the method of simile to describe her eyes ‘like those of some hunted animal.’
This proves that Miss Helen Stoner had been thinking and mourning too much for the loss of her beloved sister.
Dr Grimsby Roylott
Dr Grimsby Roylott is a murderous violent doctor. He murdered one of his daughters; Miss Julia Stoner and his other daughter is his other potential victim. He also bruised Miss Helen Stoner’s wrists and gave her ‘five livid spots.’ He also killed his native butler in a fit of anger.
This says a lot about his characteristic, personality and patience. It shows that he is very bad-tempered and is motivated by money, as the reasons for murdering Miss Julia Stoner is to not allow her to get any money.
Whilst he was in India, he practised there as a doctor, married the mother of Misses Stoner, he was imprisoned in India and escaped execution and grew in his love for exotic animals (snake-Indian swamp adder, baboon and cheetah).
He’s strong, threatening/menacing and he’s very tall.
He is described in the story as a ‘huge man’ and ‘so tall…’ He also has a ‘large face.’ All this is proves to be an extremely unattractive description of Dr Roylott in his physical side and character.
The phrase ‘so tall…’ is placed initially in the sentence for emphasis.
Conan Doyle uses words like ‘dashed’ to show the kind of person Dr Roylott is.
Dr Roylott socialises and consorts with gypsies and allows them on his land, which is contrary to what normally happened in Victorian Britain.
He lives in a large ancestral home in Stoke Moran in Surrey. His ancestors were rich but lost money in gambling in times of the Regency. This concludes that he’s not very well off.
In the story Dr Roylott is the predator and Miss Helen; the prey/victim.
The story uses the Folklore Motif; ‘the biter bit.’
It is pre-1914 text and the language is late 19 century English language.
Features – there are often very long sentences, very long paragraphs, punctuated by semi-colons. There is also an inversion of word order e.g. ‘said he.’ The paragraphs have a mixture of different clauses; most being complicated ones.
Vocabulary/ Lexis – Contains a variety of polysyllabic words (words of many syllables) e.g. ‘imperturbably,’ ‘perplexity,’ endeavoured,’ ‘acquaintance’ etc.
There is use of Latinate Diction (words of Latin origin), very often the polysyllabic ones. The description of Miss Helen Stoner, Dr Roylott, the night of Miss Julia’s murder and Stoke Moran are very detailed. This builds up a visual image of what happened, as Conan Doyle was very precise in every way.
Miss Helen Stoner – ‘A lady dressed in black and heavily veiled’
Dr Roylott – ‘Huge man framed himself in the aperture. His costume was a peculiar mixture of the professional and of the agricultural, having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters, with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand.’
Stoke Moran – ‘two curving wings, like the claws of a crab…’
That’s a use of a simile which gives a clear visual image, comparing the wings of Stoke Moran to the claws of a crab.
The story also has use of figurative/ poetic/ descriptive language.
The use of dialogue is excellent too and the sense of place/ the mood/ atmosphere is very good and you feel as if your there yourself.
It has use of humour/ irony/ sarcasm – ‘that and a toothbrush’ (calling a revolver a toothbrush – bathos) and when Holmes starts polite conversation with Dr Roylott – ‘crocuses…’ ‘a decided draught.’
Blacksmith – working class
Gypsies – lower than working class/ social outsiders which were ostracized. No one liked them at all, apart from Dr Roylott who socialised with them.
Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson, Dr Roylott, Misses Stoner were all social class – upper/middle class
Mrs Hudson was lower middle class
The relationship between men and women were pretty much the same everywhere. Men respected women very much and were very gallant. Just like Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes were very polite and kind to Miss Helen Stoner.
Women also may have had dress codes back then. They also had specific dress codes for mourning periods. Just like Miss Helen Stoner was ‘heavily veiled’ and ‘dressed in black.’
They had lack of communications as to signal the start of Sherlock Holmes’s plan, they used a lamp.
All this is concluded by the text, text order, attitudes, words used and literally everything.
I liked the story very much. It was very interesting and there was much tension. I liked the use of ‘red herrings’ very much, as I would never have guessed that it was the snake.
At first I didn’t really know what the title meant, but I came to know that it was in fact talking about the snake in relation to how it does its killing.
The mentioning of exotic animals, I found very interesting, but I didn’t really think that the baboon and cheetah had much relevance to the story.
I thought the story in itself was an achievement and very amazing. I would indeed read it again, had I the time.
I thought the use of the language very appealing and I loved the long words used and they contrasted the language and vocabulary a lot.
Conan Doyle is a superb author and if I could, I would read all his stories.
I liked the intimate feeling I had with the story, this feeling that I was there in place of Dr Watson. It made me feel exactly what Dr Watson was feeling.