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Comparing Roald Dahl's 'Lamb to the Slaughter' 1954 and 'The Speckled Band' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1892.

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Introduction

Comparing Roald Dahl's 'Lamb to the Slaughter' 1954 and 'The Speckled Band' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1892. Both 'Lamb to the Slaughter' and 'The Speckled Band' are detective murder mysteries. They share some similarities but have many differences. In my essay I will discuss these and the effects they have on the story. 'Lamb to the Slaughter' was written in 1954 by Roald Dahl. It is much more modern than Conan Doyle's 'The Speckled Band' of 1892. In 'Lamb to the Slaughter' the main point to the story is to find out whether Mrs Maloney will get away with committing a murder. Dahl also tries to illustrate that appearances can be deceptive. However, in 'The Speckled Band' the reader continues to read the story to find out who the murderer was and whether Holmes will discover how the crime was committed. The stories are both murder mysteries yet their shapes are almost opposite. The setting of 'The Speckled Band' is a typical old mansion. 'The manor house is very old'. This lends an atmosphere of foreboding and suspense to the story. This is because it is natural to find dark and sinister places scary. Conan Doyle uses descriptions such as 'A picture of ruin', 'Ill trimmed lawn', 'The building was of grey lichen-blotched stone', to show this age. The setting is important in that the atmosphere and the suspense which keeps the reader interested are dependant upon this. In Victorian times, this type of setting would be more suited to the audience than that of a warm and cosy house. Conan Doyle was not challenging stereotypes, instead using them to his own advantage. However, in 'Lamb to the Slaughter' the scene of the crime is the complete opposite. 'The room was warm and clean'. This causes the reader to feel relaxed without any suspicion that events such as a murder would occur. ...read more.

Middle

'They were clearly hungry . . . Persuaded to help themselves'. Had Conan Doyle been writing a story including Sherlock Holmes the mystery would have already been solved, but Dahl's detectives are stupid enough to consume the evidence. The penultimate line of the story sums up the men's ignorance. ' "Probably right under our very noses" ', as they eat it! I think that Dahl wrote this to give humour and to show how people aren't always as they should be. Mary Maloney has succeeded in committing murder because the police have eaten the weapon. The detectives are bumbling and in no way 'typical'. A normal fictional detective solves the crime and catches the criminal. To the contrary Dahl presents the detectives as being incompetent and incapable of catching a murderess as they are deceived by appearances. 'The Speckled Band' by complete contrast contains a man who is hailed 'the world's greatest fictional detective' - Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is almost super-human in his deduction, which is shown to the reader from the start. Holmes' first deduction is how the lady arrived: ' "left arm of your jacket is spattered with mud . . . dog cart throws up mud in that way" '. Occurrences like this continue throughout the story, buried deep under other circumstances causing the reader to marvel at the prowess of the man. My favourite example, probably because the observations and reasons never occurred to me, was the realisation that there must be a ventilator joining the two rooms. ' "Her sister could smell Dr Roylott's cigar . . . There must be a communication . . . Only a small one. . . I deduced a ventilator" '. This illustrates the chain of thought of a character with fantastic mental logic skills. Conan Doyle's stories with Holmes were extremely popular when they were first published, so a vast majority of the target audience knew that Holmes would solve the mystery. ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite these criticisms I was interested in both of the stories as both Dahl and Conan Doyle wrote in styles that made me wish to continue reading, but for different reasons. In 'The Speckled Band' I was intrigued by the details like 'a small lash . . . Curled upon itself', 'a small saucer of milk' and others, and how they would all fit into the solution. The element of suspense also helped to make me want to read on. This was aided by the character of Dr Watson. When Holmes speaks to him he leaves out key details which crates suspense. 'There is a distinct element of danger', 'I may have deduced a little more'. Watson is almost like the reader - left in the dark but desperate to reach a solution. The reason I wanted to continue to read 'Lamb to the Slaughter' was different. I was interested in whether Mary Maloney would be found innocent. The suspense causing this desire was found in places like ' "Which grocer?" ', 'Other detective who immediately went out into the street'.. The reader is curious about whether the detectives will solve the riddles. In contrast, there is no doubt that Conan Doyle will write an ending where Holmes solves the mystery with Watson in awe. I found 'Lamb to the Slaughter' more successful as a story due to its humour and 'snappiness' coupled with the way Dahl created suspense. 'The Speckled Band' was more successful as a murder mystery because there were more problems for the reader to solve. I do not think that 'Lamb to the Slaughter' is a mystery. In conclusion I feel I have found that there were a few basic similarities between the stories, but more differences. I found 'Lamb to the Slaughter' more interesting as it did not ramble like 'The Speckled Band'. The differences I have compared with one story, the antithesis of the other, are due mainly to the fact that the stories were written nearly one hundred years apart by different authors with styles, concepts and expectations having changed over time. ...read more.

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