Compare ‘The Speckled Band’ written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle With ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ written by Roald Dahl

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Lauren Hilton

Compare 'The Speckled Band' written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

With 'Lamb to the Slaughter' written by Roald Dahl

The two short stories that I am comparing are the pre- twentieth century story, 'The Speckled Band' written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1892 to the twentieth century story, 'Lamb to the Slaughter' written by Roald Dahl in 1954. Both stories come from different periods and this is reflected in the writing, however both stories are of a detective genre. It is clear that both authors wrote for different audiences. Conan Doyle wrote for adults while Roald Dahl mainly wrote for the younger audience. I will compare the similarities and differences in plot, setting, characters, language used and ending.

The Speckled Band is based around a detective, Sherlock Holmes, who is one day visited by a woman, called Helen Stoner, 'who insists upon seeing' him very early one morning. She is in fear of her life and suspects that something is going to happen to her because she is about to be married and her sister was killed prior to her marriage. Lamb to the Slaughter is about a wife 'six months with child' who is told some news from her husband; we presume he has had an affair. She then kills her husband with a 'frozen leg of lamb' in a rage of anger. She instantly realises what consequences her actions could have and does everything in her power to conceal the truth. The two stories are similar because they both have the same genre; they are both detective stories with murder involved. However the murders have many differences. Dr Roylott purposely killed Helen's sister, he had planned it out and he was preparing to kill again, he had also 'beat his nature butler to death. Dr Roylott is portrayed as being a violent man who indulged in 'ferocious quarrels with whoever might cross his path'. In contrast Mary Maloney initially appears to be a pleasant housewife with 'a slow smiling air about her'. Mary Maloney didn't intend to kill her husband either and had never killed anybody before. The stories are also set in different times. The Speckled Band is a pre-twentieth century story and Lamb to the Slaughter is a twentieth century story. The Speckled Band deals more with the investigation of the crime whereas Lamb to the Slaughter focus's on the crime itself. I think this is because of the different attitudes to literature and crime. In the Victorian times, when The Speckled band is set, crime was rife in London and it most of it was never solved. So the audience found it more appealing when the crime was solved. The period that Lamb to the slaughter was set in, murders were a lot more frequent, especially in the home, and the attitude to crime had changed. The main difference is that Sherlock Holmes solves the case in The Speckled Band and the case in Lamb to the Slaughter is not solved.

The setting for the pre-twentieth century story The Speckled Band is based in two places. In Baker street, London and Stoke Moran in Surrey. The Speckled band is set in Victorian England and the story reflects the time in history. For example the 'dog-cart' that Helen Stoner travelled in to get to London and the flickering gas lamps. The language such as 'you are at liberty to defray' gives an indication to the period in time of history because defray is only used in this present-day in court and isn't used in everyday English language. The two stories have many similarities, however the setting for the twentieth century story Lamb to the Slaughter is a very cosy, pleasant suburban house and 'the room was warm and clean'. The story reflects what time the story was set. For example 'the car door slamming' which shows that they had a car and gives an idea of the time and 'the deep freeze' this indicates they had a freezer and a supply of electricity in the house. Sherlock Holmes's house in Baker Street is where the fist part of the story is set. His house is Victorian and very organised. They had a coal fire which Mrs Hudson, the housekeeper, lit. Holmes says 'Mrs Hudson has had the good sense to light the fire.' Holmes has a housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, Watson says 'Mrs Hudson has been knocked up, she resorted upon me.' This indicates that he may be quite wealthy and has a certain class. Holmes's house is a typical pre-twentieth century setting. Mary Maloney's house is very similar to Holmes's house. In both stories 'mantelpieces' are referred to. In The Speckled Band Dr Watson refers to it saying 'as the clock on the mantelpiece showed me' and in Lamb to the Slaughter it says 'nearly nine she noticed by the clock on the mantel'. Both these quotes highlight the fact that both stories have timings in them. While The Speckled Band is set over a period of two days Lamb to the Slaughter is set in just one night. I think that because it has timings in both stories it makes the stories more realistic to the audience. Stoke Moran in Surrey is where Helen Stoner and Dr Roylott live. Conan Doyle uses a simile to describe Stoke Moran, 'two curving wings, like claws of a crab' this makes the house sound forbidding and dangerous place to be. Stoke Moran is a very big place with many repairs needed to be done, for example 'the windows were broken' and 'the roof was partly caved in' illustrates that the house is old and had been neglected for some time. Stoke Moran fits the criteria of a classic murder story but Mary Maloney's house doesn't. I think that the homely atmosphere helps to secure Mary's alibi, it indicates that she is a pleasant housewife who loved her husband very much and was always trying to please him and she would not even consider killing her husband. The Speckled Band is predictive because of the clues given in the story and because Dr Roylott is a villain unlike Lamb to the Slaughter which is not predictive because the murderer is someone who we thought as being unable to commit such a crime.
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Dr Roylott is the 'terror of the village'; he is always starting brawls with the villagers. We know that this behaviour was very violent and he once 'hurled the local blacksmith'. And at Sherlock Holmes's house 'he picked up the poker' and he 'bent it into a curve'. He is a very aggressive man who is very forthright and demanding. Dr Roylott has a great passion for Indian animals and at the house he keeps 'a cheetah and a baboon, which wander freely over his grounds. Dr Watson though appears to be a very patient man who is ...

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