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How does Arthur Conan Doyle create an atmosphere of mystery and build suspense in 'The Speckled Band'? To what extent are his methods typical of all the other stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes?

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Introduction

How does Arthur Conan Doyle create an atmosphere of mystery and build suspense in 'The Speckled Band'? To what extent are his methods typical of all the other stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? In many of Holmes' adventures, Conan Doyle used a successful personal formula to create mystery and build suspense, and "The Speckled Band" is no exception. Watson begins the story by stating that he cannot recall any case that represented more 'singular features' than that of the one he is about to narrate. Despite this rather impressive beginning, analysis of the other adventures reveals that this is the fairly 'standard' opening for Conan Doyle. The reader then learns that 'The Speckled Band' is about the assistance that Holmes provided to a helpless young woman, by the name of Miss Helen Stoner. Miss Stoner is a client who turns up at Baker Street very early one morning in a 'pitiable state of agitation' to seek Holmes' help. Her vulnerable state and appearance with 'her face all drawn and grey, with restless, frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal' quickly engage the sympathy of the reader. Generally speaking, she is portrayed by Arthur Conan Doyle as a naive, weak and vulnerable woman whom we later discover has been taken advantage of by her 'evil' stepfather. ...read more.

Middle

More specifically, Sherlock Holmes' reputation rests on two key skills, namely his exceptional powers of observation and analysis. Since 1887, people have been reading Sherlock Holmes mysteries to discover just exactly how his brilliant and enigmatic mind works. In the 'Adventures', Arthur Conan Doyle impresses upon the readers, client and Watson the detectives 'unique talents' and powers of deduction as after just one of his quick; all comprehensive glances he learns a lot about the client. In this instance, Holmes notes that 'the left arm of [her] jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven places' and he observes that the 'the second half of a return ticket in the palm of [her] palm'. From only this little information, Holmes is able to ''logically'' deduce that the lady has 'come in by train' and that she 'had a good drive in a dog-cart, along heavy roads'. Due to Sherlock Holmes' extraordinary skills and mysterious character, readers tend to identify more with his faithful sidekick Watson than with the detective himself. The standard feature in Holmes mysteries is that the reader doesn't understand Holmes and his methods until he explains them at the end. In the meantime, Watson's concerns are the readers concern. ...read more.

Conclusion

Conan Doyle's use of the loaded word, 'fatal' plays upon and deepens the reader's interest and concern. The reader has already seen and heard what a dangerous, uncaring and harsh man Roylett is; he 'beat his native butler to death, and narrowly escaped a capital sentence', he beats up his daughters and perhaps 'he hardly knows his own strength'. Thus, he/ she is made to think that both Watson and Holmes have their lives at stake and that any error or misjudgement on Holmes' part could be tragic. Hence, the atmosphere of the story is by this stage charged with tension and fear. Holmes then proceeds to clarify upon the whole mystery and reveal the ''elementary'' reasoning which has brought it to a close. It is customary for the detective to only reveal his methods at this point to keep the reader in suspense till the very end. The precise nature of the crime and criminal are then identified and with almost all Sherlock Holmes' stories, the culprit is brought to justices and Holmes emerges as the triumphant sleuth and saviour. The reader sees how Holmes' enigmatic mind has used simple logic to solve the mystery that neither the police, the client, the readers, or Watson could solve and so the case of 'The Speckled Band', perhaps the most interesting story in the collection of the 'Adventures' ends. Zainab Milani Sherlock Holmes Miss Naji ...read more.

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