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“The Veldt” and “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”

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Introduction

"The Veldt" and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" For this assignment, we have studied two texts; "The Veldt" by Ray Bradbury and "The Adventure of The Speckled Band" By Arthur Conan Doyle, to see what makes an effective short story. To do this I will explore and compare elements such as structure, techniques, characterisation and authorial purpose in order to assess the relative success of each. "The Veldt" is a science fiction story written in the 1950's and set in the future in a world where people's lives have been eased by invention. "The Adventure of The Speckled Band" is a classic detective story, with the hero, Sherlock Holmes ably assisted by his friend Watson, fighting evil in the form of Dr Roylott and of course the narrative includes a red herring in the form of the gypsies. The Conan Doyle story takes place in middle class Victorian England. Holmes and Watson travel by train from their apartments in London, then by trap "for four or five miles through the lovely Surrey lanes," to the decaying country home of the Roylotts called Stoke Moran. This familiar setting would clearly have appealed to readers of the day. Descriptions of houses, methods of transport such as dogcarts and lighting with candles are appropriate to the period. The 19th century audience could relate to these, for 20th century readers, it shows them that the story was set in the past. London is referred to as the Metropolis showing that it was the major urban centre of England. The popular prejudice against gypsies is openly expressed although at the time that it was written, there were different moral standards so they might not have seen it as prejudice. The story concerns people of the middle and upper classes. This is important because the readership of the time, who read this genre of books, either would have been the middle or upper classes or at least they aspired to be so. ...read more.

Middle

Sherlock Holmes seems to have an almost encyclopaedic mind, which he uses to apply knowledge to his cases; " "It is a swamp adder!" cried Holmes; "the deadliest snake in India. He has died within ten seconds of being bitten..." " He identifies the snake immediately and the origin of it and then explains the effects. He possesses one of the greatest detective minds in fiction. He always solves his cases by analysing facts then using deduction. For example he noticed that the bell rope was a dummy and then by deducing all of the other entrances for the killer/murder weapon to come in by, he realised that something must have come in through the hole. In "The Speckled Band", Sherlock Holmes is approached by Helen Stoner to solve her problem; "Oh, sir, do you not think you could help me, too, and at least throw a little light through the dense darkness that surrounds me?" Similarly, The Hadleys go to Mr McClean with their problem in "The Veldt". There is a striking difference in their attitude to what they are doing, when Holmes makes an error, he openly corrects himself; " " I had," said he, "come to an entirely erroneous conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data." " For Holmes, his goal is to discover the truth. He explains how he followed the wrong line of investigation when Helen Stoner mentioned her sister saw a speckled band. He goes on to explain how observed facts e.g. the bell rope and the bed clamped to the floor, caused him to revise his theory. McClean develops his ideas and theories in a more haphazard, vague way. He could be just playing with words. He says that he can trust his "hunches" and "instincts" rather than using concrete facts; "My dear George, a psychologist never saw a fact in his life. ...read more.

Conclusion

Unlike the Conan Doyle story, the reader is invited to put together small pieces and draw their own conclusions. Although the characters do not reveal much in their speech, there are descriptions of their thoughts. Arthur Conan Doyle seems to deal with facts and makes each stage of the story clear, but Ray Bradbury deals with feelings and suggested motives. For example George Hadley wonders "Perhaps Lydia was right," as he contemplates a holiday away from the nursery. The reader is also told of George ignoring the threatening presence of the lions "but being busy he had paid no attention". This is a more subtle way of developing tension; it requires the reader to think. The names of the children, Peter and Wendy, seem to have been deliberately chosen to make the reader consider J M Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy. Peter allows Wendy to escape to "Never Never Land", where Wendy becomes a mother for the lost boys who are neglected by their natural parents. But where as the Peter Pan story ends happily, the Bradbury story takes the distortions of family relationships to a horrible conclusion. At the end of the story Wendy is acting like a mother; "A cup of tea?" As George Hadley decides he must turn off the house, the reader already knows what the children are planning to do. The writer then creates tension by speeding up the pace of action and showing the parents in an increasing state of panic; The parents repeatedly cry "Wendy, Peter" and "Open up." They then try to be calm and plead with the children; "Now don't be ridiculous... Mr McClean'll be here in a minute." But by this time, they are too late, the trap is set. Two words- "the lions" pinpoint the final moment when they realise their fates! In comparing these two stories I have decided that I think it is much more effective for the writer to leave the reader to imagine what might happen next. In conclusion there are many factors which work together to make an effective short story. ...read more.

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