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A critical account of 'The Speckled Band' and 'The Engineer's Thumb' by Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Introduction

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes A critical account of 'The Speckled Band' and 'The Engineer's Thumb' by Arthur Conan Doyle In the story of The Speckled Band a woman called Helen Stoner arrives at Holmes' rooms in a state of terror. She is the stepdaughter of Dr Grimesby Roylott, a violent man who spent five years in India and associates only with gipsies, and has such exotic pets as a baboon and a cheetah. Helen's mother is now dead, and two years previously her sister died in mysterious circumstances: a strange whistling disturbed her in her sleep for some nights, and on the night of her death she appeared transfixed, able only to shriek, 'the speckled band!' she had been about to marry and now Helen is planning to do the same; her stepfather has moved her to her sisters bedroom next to his and the whistling has recurred. Despite a warning from the maniacal Dr Roylott, Holmes and Watson head for Stoke Moran, examine the house and wait the night in Helen's bedroom. Holmes' deduction proves correct: Dr Roylott sends a swamp adder (the speckled band) through a ventilator to kill Helen, Holmes' cane drives it back and the murderer is poisoned. ...read more.

Middle

'The building was of grey, lichen-blotched stone with a high central portion, and two curving wings, like the claws of a crab, thrown out on each side. 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.' The language and speech used were more formal in the Victorian era with customs and behaviour with are not often seen today, 'my step father has offered no opposition to the match', said Miss Stoner when proposed to by her fianc�. Forms of transport were different e.g. a dogcart as transport, they also used oil lamps and old fashioned furnishings, these all build the setting and atmosphere. There are a number of themes central to the plot. They're the dangers of the exotic East, for example Dr Roylott's dangerous exotic pets. Also the gypsies (although blameless) add an air of menace as well as providing 'the red herring' of 'the speckled band'. There is also the financial motive to wish Helen dead. In concluding I believe this story to the classic 'locked room mystery' the 'who done it' element is of course important in the detective story and this a very satisfying story from that point of: perhaps more 'how was it done?' ...read more.

Conclusion

'it was pitch dark inside the house', 'it was a wonderfully silent house', 'deadly still', 'secluded', 'it was a labyrinth of an old house', 'no carpets or furniture above the ground floor', 'damp was breaking through in green unhealthy blotches'. This setting helps to build the feeling of 'uneasiness' in the reader. There are a number of central themes to the plot; 'it is more mysterious adventure than a detective story'. Starting with Mr Hatherly's account of the journey, the attack, after twice being warned by the beautiful Elise, the escape, the mystery, and the deduction. In comparing the two stories, there is a classic formula apparent in both stories, However in the Speckled Band the focus of attention is villain- Dr Roylott, on the other hand in the Engineer's Thumb it is the victim who is the main element. The setting for the speckled band also differs from the engineers thumb on is set in the decaying grandeur of a mansion whilst the other is played out in the backdrop of a more working class house. Roylott is aristocratic and titled where as Hartherly is a down to earth engineer. In concluding I preferred the engineers thumb as it created more of a felling of Intensity and was able to relate more to the engineer and there fore I could sympathise with him. ...read more.

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