The Speckled Band Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:06:56
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Category: Conan Doyle

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In this essay I will be comparing the ways that Conan Doyle in his presentation of Sherlock Holmes conveys aspects of Victorian society, such as detective fiction, Victorian morality, the publication of Darwins book The Origin of the Species and also the popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I will be comparing the stories; The Red-Headed League, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Speckled Band, Silver Blaze and The Cardboard Box. Detective fiction first emerged in 1841, with the publication of Edgar Allan Poes The Murders in the Rue Morgue, in which two women were brutally murdered.

Dupin, the detective of the story, solved the mystery that had baffled everybody else, including the police. Most people now agree that it was Poe who introduced the elements of a detective story: a brilliant detective and a baffling crime that requires superior intelligence to solve helped along by a doting friend or colleague who chronicles the case. The Sherlock Holmes stories are also written against a backdrop of Victorian moral values and attitudes. The Victorians believed in duty and will, hard work and respect.

But in 1859 Victorian religious beliefs were shattered with the publication of Charles Darwins theory The Origin of the Species. At the time most people believed strongly that God created humans but Darwins theory argued against that and said that humans had evolved from apes. This bestial quality has strong links into several of the Sherlock Holmes stories. The main structure of the stories is mostly the same. Sherlock Holmes is presented with a case or a mystery, on which he sets out to find clues with which to decipher the conundrum. Watson is the narrator of the stories and he narrates everything that Sherlock does and says.

Usually the reader, along with Watson is left pondering how Sherlock has solved the mystery until the very end when Sherlock explains to Watson how he figured it out. There is, however, one story where the structure differs slightly. This is in The Man with the Twisted Lip when at the beginning Watson becomes involved in the story first, instead of someone coming to Sherlock with a problem. Also, in the Sherlock Holmes stories Conan Doyle creates a specific function for the role of Watson, in which he creates a narrator, who admires and is devoted to Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle has also made the narrator somewhat dull of intelligence. The effect is that Watson acts as a foil to Holmess brilliance as well as ensuring that, by Watsons lack of understanding, the reader cannot solve the mystery until it is explained by Holmes. Conan Doyle clearly adored Edgar Allan Poe as his short stories were modeled on his novels. This is proved in The Cardboard Box when he makes a direct reference to him; a passage in one of Poes sketches. Conan Doyle presents Sherlock Holmes as an intense, observant character with fierce powers of observation and a vast knowledge.

Holmes is famous for his prowess at using logic and astute observation to solve cases. In both stories he is shown as having huge ability in making deductions quickly about a person or situation. In The Red-Headed League he notes several details about Jabez Wilson that to any average person would go undetected. He observes that Wilson takes snuff, that he is a Freemason and that he has been in China. Similarly in The Speckled Band, Holmes deduces that Miss Stoner had come in by train and that she had had a good drive in a dog-cart, along heavy roads.

He again proves his powers of observation in Silver Blaze when he works out that their rate of present is fifty-three and a half miles an hour. When asked how he knew this he tells Watson that he knows that the telegraph poles upon this line are sixty yards apart, which also shows his quick brain. He further demonstrates his great power of deduction in The Cardboard Box when he follows Watsons eye movements and subsequently his train of thought. Holmes can also ascertain information about situations, not just people.

In The Red-Headed League he quickly deduces the real persona of Vincent Spaulding and in The Speckled Band he is fast to decipher the clues in Dr Roylotts room. He is shown to have a vast knowledge of tattoos in The Red-Headed League; I have made a small study of tattoo marks. He is shown also to have an advanced knowledge of turf matters in Silver Blaze when he explains how Silas Brown intended to make a slight nick upon the tendons of a horses ham, and to do it so subcutaneously so as to leave absolutely no trace.

Holmes is also conveyed as a good man, who restores moral values and appears, at first, to stand for true ethical virtues. In The Speckled Band Holmes voices the moral and philosophical standards of the time, that crime and evil must be eradicated, wiped-out and order must be restored to man-kind; Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into the pit which he digs for another. Similarly, in Silver Blaze Holmes restores moral values in the washing away of Boones make-up to reveal Neville St. Clair.

This is symbolic of the restoration of morality; the deceit is wiped away. Along with his immense knowledge and deep perception skills comes a certain air of arrogance and a condescending manner, which Conan Doyle uses to great effect to make Holmes a more three-dimensional character and make Holmes more believable and realistic. These attributes are present in The Red-Headed League when he appears to be arrogant when talking to Watson; I shall keep piling fact upon fact on you, until your reason breaks down under them and acknowledges me to be right.

Holmes patronises Jabez Wilson in The Red-Headed League. He laughs at him and shoving him back into the chair shows blatant disrespect for the average commonplace British tradesman. This also shows the class structure in the Victorian era and the social attitudes at the time. Jabez Wilson is described as obese, pompous and slow. Holmes is shown to think of himself very highly and superior to others in The Red-Headed League; It saved me from ennui, he answered yawning¦.

My life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence. He also appears to be quite patronizing when he is asked how he is able to deduce the facts about Jabez Wilson; beyond the obvious facts. In the same way he comes across quite arrogant when he is talking to Dr Grimsby Roylott in The Speckled Band. He presents himself in a standoffish manner and rebuts all the questions and accusations that are thrown at him your conversation is most entertaining, although it is seen as necessary as Roylott is seen as the villain of the story.

Also in The Speckled Band Holmes places himself above the law and allows Roylott to be killed by the snake. Was this the right thing to do? It poses a question to the reader if this is in keeping to Victorian morality and standards. In contrast to this evidence in Silver Blaze he uncharacteristically shows his human side when he admits I made a blunder¦. which is, I am afraid a more common occurrence than anyone would think. Conan Doyle could have included this flaw in Holmes in order to make him seem more realistic and human.

Conan Doyle also presents Sherlock Holmes as an intense, passionate individual who insists on only working with cases that tended towards the unusual, even the fantastic. He is a worker who is completely driven by infatuation towards his work and his cases. This is reinforced in The Speckled Band when he is asked what he would receive as a wage he replied, My profession is its reward. It is clear throughout Conan Doyles writings that Holmes is a profound soul who possesses an absolutely genuine fascination of somebody who is absolutely driven until he has solved a crime.

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