Although these short stories are fictional and were written in the mid 19th Century they are crime dramas containing stereotypical images of the villains of the time. These include social outcasts such as Dr Roylott and Monsieur Faulkner. Many writers use suspense in their stories in order to excite the reader more and to make them want to turn over to the next page. This is can be done by giving the reader some information, but not enough for him or he to be able to answer the mystery or riddle that they may be trying to solve.
‘The Speckled Band’ focuses on the Roylott family, of Stoke Moran in Surrey. The family includes twin sisters Julia and Helen Stoner, and their stepfather Dr Grimesby Roylott. The readers’ first impression of Helen Stoner is that she is grieving over someone’s death, due to her appearance. She is “dressed in black and heavily veiled”. The reader is encouraged to feel sympathy for Helen Stoner and anxious to find out who has died and how, as she is clearly in mourning.
The simile used to portray her fear and suggests she is weak and vulnerable, maybe even the next victim.
“Restless frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal”, indicates to the reader how she is being “hunted” like some kind of prey. This assists in building the suspense, as the reader is unaware of the details of the death, it is still a mystery. Conan Doyle’s use of nouns, when Helen is speaking, suggests how scared she is.
“It is fear, Mr Holmes. It is terror”, illustrates that either Helen Stoner is exaggerating the situation, or something terrible has happened to cause this extreme horror. The reader is intrigued, as it is not yet understandable why she is so upset.
Therefore the nouns are used to create suspense effectively. The complex sentences used in Helen Stoner’s speech, when she informs Holmes of the situation, such as, “The very horror of my situation lies in the fact that… as the fancies of a nervous women”, suggest she hasn’t spoken to anyone about her fears, and therefore she is desperate to report to Holmes, allowing him to attempt to solve the mystery. By doing so, there is a build up of suspense for the reader, as it is apparent the reader will soon discover the mystery, which has been troubling Helen Stoner.
The reader’s first impression of Dr Roylott is that he is better then his relatives and he will do the “right thing” with his life, as he has a medical degree, and a large practice in Calcutta. This however is a false impression of Dr Roylott, as Helen Stoner describes him as having “A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow from the sun, and marked with every evil passion’ he is also said to have ‘deep, bile shot eyes’ and a ‘high, thin fleshless nose’ which resembled ‘a fierce old bird of prey. ” Also we learn that ” he beat his native butler to death”, in a fit of anger.
And later on, “he became the terror of the village”. Suspense is created by the description of Roylott as such a dangerous character, and because of this we fear for the safety of Helen. Our picture of Roylott as a dangerous and violent man is reinforced when he bends the poker with his bare hands and then hurls it into the fireplace ‘snarling’ at Holmes before leaving. The mystery is discovered in the “picture of ruin”, Stoke Moran, located in Surrey. The manor house is portrayed as a suspicious, dark, threatening house, by the use of Conan Doyle’s simile “two curving wings like those of a crab”.
Crabs claws are strong and they have the potential to harm. Therefore the simile used implies that Stoke Moran is a dubious, shady house, situated in the middle of nowhere, with darkness surrounding it. Conan Doyle’s technique of using darkness throughout The Speckled Band creates tension, and this appears to the readers’ senses. The imagery of the “distorted child” affects the reader’s sight, as they become more aware of their surroundings. The “cat-like whine” appears the reader’s sound sense, as the reader can hear things, but they cannot see them, and this would make the reader nervous.