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How do the two detective stories reflect the eras they were written in?

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Introduction

How do the two detective stories reflect the eras they were written in? Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's story, The Speckled Band is based in nineteenth century Victorian England. This time period was one of confidence, as Britain became a major power in Europe and indeed the world. One of the numerous popular genres of literature that the Victorians warmed to during this time of confidence was Gothic tales (Mrs. Radcliffe's Udolpho for instance) which tended to follow a fairly distinct pattern. Firstly they were based upon the use of the macabre, which included frightening screams and often murder (as seen in The Speckled Band). Secondly, Arthur Conan-Doyle's tale is set in a secluded mansion on a countryside estate in western Surrey owned by a rich English family, reflecting the wealth of Victorian England. These picturesque and to some extent romantic settings are another aspect familiar to Gothic tales, along with the use of exotic or foreign influences (such as the wild animals kept by Doctor Roylott). This leads us on to the final clich� of these Gothic tales - the arch villain and female victim (Doctor Roylott and Ms Helen Stoner respectively). The Victorians were rather fond of this somewhat rigid structure of story and The Speckled Band proved to be no exception, suitably reflecting the Victorian era. ...read more.

Middle

This requires the reader to use their deductive powers and intellect to attempt to solve the case independently allowing them to engage with the story. The reader needs some form of relation to a character in the tale (who is in many ways similar to themselves) so that the story is able to flow. Consequently Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle employs a colleague for his hero in order to fulfil the previous requirement. Holmes' sidekick, Dr Watson, acts as the narrator throughout Doyle's books. He helps provide a perspective from an observer's view and a personal, subjective account. He is like the reader; has no idea what his colleague is thinking and is not brilliant enough to solve the case himself. Watson helps provide a contrast between himself and Holmes during the story, as does the arch-villain, Doctor Roylott. As mentioned before the Doctor is the stereotypical, melodramatic arch villain of The Speckled Band. His first encounter with Holmes is quite early on in the tale when the doctor "visits" Holmes and Watson at their apartment. Before words are exchanged Doyle includes a fairly lengthy description of Roylott using such phrases as: seared with a thousand wrinkles and bile-shot eyes. The Victorians would have recognised the systematic description of the stranger's appearance as that of a villain's just like people of today could but perhaps not so easily. ...read more.

Conclusion

He manages to independently solve the case and takes the law into his own hands, by also assisting in the death of the arch-villain Doctor Roylott. The Doctor was sending a poisonous snake through a vent into the room where his victim sleeps. The snake climbed down a rope and bit the person and then returned upon the call of a whistle. The detective however, deduced this and scared the snake, provoking it to return and kill the Doctor. Holmes' victory only enhances his confidence and reputation and he feels no remorse for acting above the law: "And I cannot say that it is likely to weigh very heavily upon my conscience". To conclude, both these detective stories are very different. The Speckled Band is much more of a conventional tale, using grammatically correct language and a traditional Gothic tale framework to revolve the story around. This heavily tradition based detective story reflects 19th Century Victorian Britain extremely well. Raymond Chandler's I'll Be Waiting is a more original, modern story. The tale is more realistic then that of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's story and has, I believe, a greater sense of atmosphere then The Speckled Band. Chandler helps to create this atmosphere by using a wide array of adjectives and descriptive phrases. However, unlike Doyle's tale there is not much of a dynamic story line, but maybe this is just another subtle way Raymond Chandler reflects the era his tale was written in? Vivek Nambiar 11PS ...read more.

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