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Is the opening to 'The Empty House' successful in engaging the reader in the story.

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Introduction

Hannah Devlin Mrs Clegg English Coursework An author can engage the reader in their stories by describing different aspects of the text in an interesting way. The narrator of a story is one way that can interest a reader by the knowledge and background they have or by the way they tell a story. The larger than life characters used in the text can be good ways to grab the reader's attention by being thoroughly believable, allowing the reader to become attached to them or even, in the case of Sherlock Holmes, compete with them. Holmes, Watson and the characters within the stories are examples of these entertaining and realistic individuals. The settings and social context are important features for the appeal of a story to a reader. The vocabulary used is an important way in which the author can engage the reader, as the words need to be interesting and vivid for the person reading to be intrigued. Dull words that bore and do not create an interest for the reader are not useful in engaging the attention of the reader. The six short stories that I shall study during this essay are 'The Empty House', 'The Final Problem', 'The Speckled Band', 'The Man With The Twisted Lip', 'Shoscombe Old Place' and 'The Red Headed League'. I shall analyse the opening paragraphs to discover the methods that Conan Doyle uses to engage the reader's attention. ...read more.

Middle

Not only does Holmes want to do well in his job but he works "for the love of his art" rather than for money. This characteristic of Holmes would create an idea of eagerness and passion for his work which would engage the reader as many others at that time, and now, do not possess that enthusiasm for work themselves. The settings used are effective in engaging the reader in the stories. In 'The Man With The Twisted Lip', the social context of the opening is drug abuse. In the period in which the story was written, drugs were very much an upper class hobby, whereas nowadays, it is frowned upon. This context would engage readers at the present time as they would be intrigued by the past drug portrayal. The way that Holmes associates with opposite classes like those in drug dens and those in high society with "honourable" people and the rich shows that he is accepted by all communities and this would intrigue the reader. The juxtaposition of the rich and the squalid parts of London is successful and brings a variety into the stories. Not only does Conan Doyle manage to set stories throughout London effectively, but he also sets Sherlock Holmes internationally. In 'The Final Problem', Holmes' experiences in France appear, giving the reader the impression that it is an unusual and interesting case as many people at the time would never have been to France and would want to know what it was like. ...read more.

Conclusion

The two extreme words are very different and to be used together would entice the reader. In this story Watson tells a "secret" to the reader. To hear of something secretive would encourage the reader to continue as a secret is not meant to be known and is usually a private and restricted thing, otherwise it would not have been kept secret. Watson tells that Holmes' cases were "none commonplace" therefore meaning that none of the stories would be boring. If the Sherlock Holmes stories were expected to be tiresome, then the reader would not carry on reading. In 'The Empty House' a crime is described as "inexplicable" yet Holmes managed to solve it, despite not being around. This suggests the knowledge of Holmes is far more superior than the police's, encouraging those reading to want to know more about such an incredible man. To conclude, I think that the opening to 'The Empty House' is the most successful in engaging the reader in the story. Watson regards his experiences highly as he says that he has had an "interesting and adventurous life" yet this crime managed to shock him and gave him a "sudden flood of joy, amazement and incredulity". The "close intimacy" shared between Holmes and Watson leads those reading to feel involved in such a relationship too and be taken in by the story. The detail that ten years had passed before Watson could reveal the story suggests that the story is going to be of interest otherwise there would have been no reason to ait so long. ...read more.

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