The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle and Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

The following sample essay analyzes two murder stories. Read the introduction, body and conclusion of the essay, scroll down.

In my essay, I shall analyse two murder stories: “The Speckled Band” by Arthur Conan Doyle and “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl. These stories both belong to the genre of murder stories and I shall explain the ways in which they are similar and how they differ. The first crime novel was written by Wilkie Collins and was entitled “The Moonstone.

” At the turn of the century, Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the authors of my comparative stories, appeared and bought us the detective “Sherlock Holmes. ” This produced a ‘recipe’ for the writing of murder-mystery novels.

The first thing to comprehend when comparing these two stories is what a murder/crime story actually is. The main ingredients of a murder/crime story are that it contains a murderer/criminal, a victim, a detective(s), a weapon and usually some sort of twist in the tale.

“The Speckled Band” is the story of a woman called Helen Stoner, who goes to Sherlock Holmes when she hears the identical whistle she heard on the night of her sister’s death two years ago. Julia’s last words referred to “The speckled band! ” as the cause of death.

The famous detective, Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson investigate and manage to prevent the murder of Helen. They discover the culprit as her violent father Dr. Grimesby Roylott and the cause of death for Julia as an Indian swamp adder poisoning her.

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“Lamb to the slaughter” tells the story of a pregnant, devoted housewife, Mary Maloney. Her husband Patrick, a police officer, arrives home one evening and tells Mary some bad news. Out of anger, Mary whacks him across the head with a frozen leg of lamb.

The investigating police officers, who are good friends of Mary and colleagues of her deceased husband, are persuaded by Mary to eat the lamb, hence leaving no evidence of Mary’s crime. There are many ways these crime stories are alike and different. The first important detail would be the manner in which the crime carried out. In “The Speckled Band,” the murder had been planned carefully so it was premeditated, whereas in “Lamb to the Slaughter”, it was an unplanned, spur of the moment, impulse murder. As well as this you will see that “The Speckled Band” follows the main features of a crime story.

It contains an introductory beginning, a middle where the mystery and clues are investigated and an ending where the crime is solved and the murderer discovered. In contrast, “Lamb to the Slaughter” has hardly any of these qualities as the murderer is discovered at the beginning and the main mystery is whether Mary is caught. The settings that the writers have created, among other things, reinforce the atmosphere and let the reader picture the situation and the locale that the characters are in. In “Lamb to the Slaughter”, the first three paragraphs contribute a great deal to the description of the setting.

Mary and Patrick’s house is described as “warm and clean”. This is probably created in order to throw the reader away from the crime that is about to take place. The writer makes their house seem ‘homely’ and calm. The writer uses words such as “tranquil”, “blissful”, and placid to create a peaceful atmosphere which is not a typical murder story opening. On the other hand, the writer in “The Speckled Band” creates a contrasting setting reiterating the phrase “sinister quest” to create a very eerie setting for the home of Dr. Roylott.

Other phrases such as “strange contrast” cancel out other admirable descriptions like “perfect day”, “bright sun” and “pleasant smell. ” The descriptive writing in “The Speckled Band” is there purposely to create a dark and sinister feeling of the murderer’s life. Although, the murderers are portrayed as having very different lifestyles, they do have some similarities. Dr. Roylott and Mary Maloney are both angry people. This is shown when Dr. Roylott “In a fit of anger… beat his butler to death” and when he confronted Watson and Holmes by screaming “furiously.

Mary’s act of murder was also due to her fit of anger after her husband told her some bad news. When trying to cover up the crimes they were both persistent; Mary when attempting to get the detectives to consume the leg of lamb and Dr. Roylott when he let the snake through the hole every night for an extensive period. They were both also very clever in the way in which they tried to cover up their crimes. Mary got the detectives to consume the evidence and Dr. Roylott utilised his medical knowledge to make sure that the poison would not be recognised. He also trained the snake carefully.

Other than this, they are very dissimilar. Dr Roylott is very anti-social and is described as a “fierce old bird of prey” with “bile shot eyes” and a “thousand wrinkles. ” In contrast, Mary is a very devoted and loving wife to Patrick and is very affectionate. This is displayed in the conversation that she has with the shopkeeper, Sam, after she kills Patrick. Another important factor when comparing these two stories, are how the crimes were carried out and the motives. The similarities are that they were both carried out against members of their own family and were both committed in the murderers, and victims, home.

However, the murderer’s motives differ considerably. Dr. Roylott’s motive is one of greed. This is because when his step-daughters marry, they can legally claim i?? 250 from their mothers will, which is now worth i?? 750. This would result in the doctor only having i?? 250, which was described as a “mere pittance. ” Dr. Roylott wanted all i?? 750 to himself. Mary’s motive was unclear, as the writer, Roald Dahl, did not tell exactly what news Patrick had broken to Mary. It was left to the reader’s imagination, although, it indicated that Patrick was going to leave Mary. In these stories, there were two leading detectives.

They were Jack Noonan in “Lamb to the Slaughter” and Sherlock Holmes in “The Speckled Band. ” However, Sherlock has an assistant, Dr. Watson. In “The Speckled Band,” Sherlock and Watson are main characters whereas Jack Noonan from “Lamb to the slaughter” is not. A well as this, another difference is the fact that Sherlock and Watson are private detectives compared to Noonan who is not. Sherlock Holmes is renowned for his “intuitions” and “logic. ” A fine example of this is when he notices that Helen Stoner travelled by train, then dogcart, having observed the return ticket in her hand.

This makes the reader admire Sherlock and have faith in him to solve a difficult case. In contrast, Jack Noonan from “Lamb to the Slaughter” is not as open-minded as Sherlock Holmes. He says, “… you’ve got the man,” which shows that he didn’t think of suspecting Mary, as she was a woman. The reader would have probably have thought that if Sherlock was investigating this particular crime, he probably would have suspected Mary sooner or later. Jack, however, is very kind and caring towards Mary as he regularly talks to her to make sure she is ok.

Jack’s first sign of being unprofessional is when he breaks police regulations by drinking “a drop” of whisky, which Mary offered him. This eventually led to him, and his colleagues, eating the leg of lamb and unintentionally helping Mary to dispose of her weapon. His foolishness is amplified when, while eating the lamb he ironically says, ” I think its right here on the premises” and a colleague replies with “probably right under our noses. ” The writer does this to contrast Mary’s intelligence with Noonan’s stupidity thus creating a feeling of an incapable police force. The ways the crimes were solved are quite different.

This is because the crime had not been solved in “Lamb to the Slaughter,” due to the murder weapon being destroyed. In “The Speckled Band,” Sherlock Holmes, like the reader, suspected the gypsies of killing Julia Stoner. However, he then explained that this was only due to “insufficient data. ” After seeing the ventilator that did not ventilate and the bell that did not ring as well as the fact that “the bed was clamped to the floor,” he came up with the idea of a snake. Sherlock guessed that “the rope was there as a bridge for something to pass through the hole, and coming to the bed.

After putting his theory to the test by sitting the middle of the night in the bedroom, in pin-drop silence with his colleague Watson, he discovered he was right. The snake then returned through the hole and attacked Dr. Roylott, which resulted in the snake killing him. They also discovered that the “Speckled Band! ” Julia had referred to before she died were the spots on the snake and not related to the gypsies as has been previously thought. As well as this, the whistle Helen had heard was in fact Dr. Roylott’s. He used this to call the snake back in to his room and avoid suspicion.

The structure of these two stories help with the way in which is told. ” Lamb to the slaughter” is narrated in the third person whereas in “The Speckled Band” Dr. Watson narrates in the first person. “The Speckled Band” is quite a long story compared to “Lamb to the Slaughter” and this is because “The Speckled Band” uses flashback in order to give the character a history and to add depth. As well as this, unlike “Lamb to the Slaughter,” “The Speckled Band” is not told in chronological order. Additionally, Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of “The Speckled Band” uses Watson as a narrator for numerous reasons.

Firstly, Holmes is very much a cool and calm character, whilst Watson is an emotional character who is like the go-between of Holmes and the reader allowing Watson to ask, and answer, questions that the reader is probably asking themselves. Conan Doyle allows Watson to give his own opinions without making it seem as though he is undermining Holmes’ authority. In “Lamb to the Slaughter,” Dahl tries to shock the reader by deliberately not following the normal murder mystery ‘blue-print’ and not making his characters stereotypical.

He does this to make it harder for the reader to predict what is going to happen next. Also, both the stories contain twists. In “Lamb to the Slaughter”, you wouldn’t expect Mary to kill her husband, and then for her to get away with it. The weapon in “The Speckled Band” is not what anyone would expect it to be (i. e. a snake). The language in which these two stories are written differ due to the periods in which they were written. “The Speckled Band” is a pre-twentieth century story and so is written in Victorian English.

In comparison, “Lamb to the Slaughter” uses more formal, modern English. An obvious example in “The Speckled Band” is the usage of words such as “pittance”, “aperture”, “gaiters”, “dogcart” and phrases such as “pray, take a seat” and “said he. ” There is a lot descriptive writing of the characters in “The Speckled band” compared to “Lamb to the Slaughter,” where the appearance of the characters are left to the readers imagination.

“The Speckled Band” also makes use of similes. This is shown in Watson’s description of Dr. Roylott when he compares him with a “fierce, old bird of prey”. Lamb to the Slaughter” uses short sentences and is very economical while “The Speckled Band” uses long, complex sentences, which are broken up using semi-colons. The effectiveness of the stories and the endings are just as important as any other part of the stories. This is the point where the authors get to use bias and put their views across on the situation. In “Lamb to the Slaughter,” the last words refer to Mary as she “giggles. ” This shows that the writer does not condemn Mary for her crime but suggests his relief at the fact that she got away as she did not deserve it.

However, the reader’s interpretations of Mary change dramatically as the story approaches the end. This is because Mary is not as nice and sweet as she was at the beginning. This shows that Mary has the signs of a split personality. In comparison, when the writer for “The Speckled Band” uses his character, Sherlock Holmes, to give his views, Holmes appears quite calm and even callous as he says, “I cannot say that it is likely to weigh very heavily upon my conscience. ” The issue of orals and ethics is bought up at the end of both the stories and, in some ways, debates if murder is acceptable in certain situations.

The answer to this from Dahl’s point of view is that Mary was essentially a sweet and nice woman who was provoked into committing a crime that she didn’t mean to commit and so should not be punished. Conan Doyle thinks that Roylott was a nasty and evil man who got what was coming to him and that justice had been served in the form of his death. This means that both the stories had effective endings. In conclusion, this essay shows that these two stories had many similarities and differences which all contributed to the way in which the stories are interpreted by different readers and make them what they are.

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The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle and Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl. (2017, Oct 14). Retrieved from

The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle and Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl
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