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Both 'Lamb to the Slaughter' and 'The Speckled Band' share some of the characteristics of murder mysteries.

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THE SPECKLED BAND - SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE AND LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER - ROALD DAHL Both 'Lamb to the Slaughter' and 'The Speckled Band' share some of the characteristics of murder mysteries. Explain the similarities and differences between the two stories and say which story you think is more compelling to read. 'T he Speckled Band' was written in 1892 during Queen Victoria's reign over Britain. At the time the aristocratic society was paranoid about crime and rumours and myths about murderers such as 'Jack the Ripper' did not help. The squalid chaos of a city (London) that hadn't changed much since Tudor times, with it's dark narrow alleyways and badly lit streets created a haven for murderers, rapists, prostitutes and petty thieves. The arrival of a 'super sleuth' character was obviously going to appeal to the literary clique. Sherlock Holmes was the solution to all their problems although in reality the Police Force was failing badly. In contrast 'Lamb to the Slaughter' was written in a completely different era - post-war, Elizabethan Britain, a period where attitudes and the Police Force had developed considerably from Conan Doyle's Victorian London. The nation's feeling had changed and had become more tolerant of women and including them more in a previously male world. ...read more.


However in Lamb to the Slaughter women were allowed a much freer role and so the idea of them becoming murderers was 'accepted' by the readers. In both of the stories the villains (Dr Roylott and Mary Maloney) control the people around them, Dr Roylott controls people by threatening them with physical violence whereas Mary Maloney uses subtle emotional actions to convince the Police that she's innocent. Mary Maloney is the physical and emotional opposite of Dr Roylott, she is a pregnant wife to a high ranking Police Officer, and is a quiet, gentle pregnant doting housewife who is unselfish and thinks only of her husband. This fits in with the 'perfect housewife' image that was still the norm at that time. '...each minute gone by made it nearer the time when he would come...' and '...enjoying his company after the long hours...in the house...' The only reason she is pushed towards a psychotic episode is because of Patrick Maloney's (her husband) affair and plans to break up their marriage. We, the readers, have absolutely no idea at the beginning that she is the murderess to be, in fact we are lulled into a false sense of security by the quiet atmosphere of the house. ...read more.


In contrast Mary Maloney just uses conversation to manipulate the Policemen to seeing her version of the story without thinking about the other ways: 'Well...here you are, all good friends of dear Patrick's too, and helping to catch the man who killed him. You must be terribly hungry by now...and I know Patrick would never forgive me...if I allowed you to remain in this house without offering you decent hospitality.' The endings of the stories are very different, Sherlock Holmes solves the case and kills Dr Roylott thus closing the case forever. In contrast 'Lamb to the Slaughter' does not finish and leaves much for the reader's imagination to do, Mary Maloney is not even suspected of killing her husband and will never be brought to court as the Policemen have eaten the evidence. I think that 'The Speckled Band' is more compelling to read, although it is more difficult to follow and understand as the language is complex, the story is much better and as I like them, has an air of finality at the end. Many people will find 'Lamb to the Slaughter' more compelling to read as it has a comical side to it and as attitudes had changed, people would not be so surprised to see the author let the murderess get away with it. Peter Atkin 01/05/07 ...read more.

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