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Compare 'Lamb to the Slaughter' with 'The Speckled Band', assessing their effectiveness as examples of detective stories.

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Introduction

Murder Mysteries from - 'Stories Now and Then' Compare 'Lamb to the Slaughter' with 'The Speckled Band', assessing their effectiveness as examples of detective stories. Roald Dahl wrote 'Lamb to the Slaughter' in 1954. 'The Speckled Band' was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1892. Because the two stories are from different centuries, they were written using different styles to suit different audiences. Typically, detective stories aim to create mystery, tension, expectation and surprise. Often the mystery is usually solved by successful detectives. The two stories contrast directly with each other but are both still effective as detective stories. The social, historical and cultural context, narration, characterisation, setting and structure all play important roles in making the stories effective and enjoyable. 'The Speckled Band' was written in Victorian times, for Victorian people. This is an important point to remember because when the story was written Victorians feared crime, and so they enjoyed reading about successful detectives. This would have made it instantly successful. Today the story is still as effective and partly for the same reasons. Today people like reading murder mysteries or watching detective films because part of the enjoyment comes from the satisfaction of seeing the mystery solved. However, in 'Lamb to the Slaughter', Dahl diverts from this typical structure, but still makes it effective. ...read more.

Middle

Obscure, unnecessary repairs taking place in the bedrooms of the house and effective description of strange noises heard, such as the "nocturnal whistles", again add to the already puzzling setting. This setting contrasts to that of Sherlock Holmes' home. His house has a warm welcoming and calming atmosphere, which is complimented by the personality of detective. This feeling of warmth is contrasted by the presence of Dr Grimesby Roylott, whose personality is a lot colder and violent. 'Lamb to the Slaughter' yet again moves away from the typical setting of murder mysteries. The scene here is quiet, peaceful and intimate, indicated by the "warm, clean" room, and "the two table lamps alight - hers and the one behinds the chair opposite...two tall glasses of soda water", and gives no indication as to what happens later. There is a great sense of normality and routine in the house, "a few moments later, punctually as always, she heard the tyres on the gravel outside". The characters reflect this setting, and are portrayed as quiet people, who conform to this set routine and live together peacefully. Because of this the murder comes as even more of an unpredictable surprise. When considering the characters in the two stories, it is important to remember the different aims of the two writers. ...read more.

Conclusion

Helen Stoner, the potential victim in 'The Speckled Band', like the rest of Doyle's characters, conforms with the typical vulnerable, helpless and scared young woman. Helen is haunted by what her sister Julia's mysterious death before her wedding. She is convinced her sister died from pure fear, and is completely oblivious to the fact that her stepfather is involved. She protects her stepfather from Holmes by not talking much about him - (page 161). I think this reflects the time in which the story was written, when women were less independent. Patrick Maloney in 'Lamb to the Slaughter' is not a typical victim so when he disrupts the normality, he still expects things to continue as normal and because of this the reader experiences even more surprise at his murder. No one expected his wife to suddenly change from being quiet and fussy into a cold-blooded murderer. Both stories in my opinion are effective as murder mysteries. Although Dahl's 'Lamb to the Slaughter' reverses most typical factors of a murder mystery, it still contains the traditional key elements of anticipation and unpredictable surprise which we find in 'The Speckled Band'. Effective use of characters, settings, structures and narration, make both stories enjoyable and exciting to read. Having an understanding of the social, historical and cultural contexts the stories were written in helps the reader to enjoy and appreciate both stories whilst accepting their very different styles and aims. Sam Stephenson 11x English Coursework ...read more.

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