Task: To compare and contrast how two authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from the 19th century and Alan Bennett from the 20th century, treat the subject of murder. Which do you find the most successful treatment and why? Both texts are written in the first person, from the viewpoints of different people connected with the crime, and from the point of view of an outsider in each situation/ someone who doesn’t fully know what is happening themselves. In the Speckled Band the genre is being described from Watson’s point of view, and it is written as an account of his past.
It is this point of view he uses to portray evidence as he finds it out. As he isn’t the main detective then you as a reader are not given ideas as to the cause of the victims’ death until the end when he is told. This makes the reader more interested because they have the oppertunity to work out the cause of the murder for themselves. In The Outside Dog the monologue is being told from Marjory’s viewpoint, who we find out later to be the murderers husband. This keeps the reader interested because we seem to realise before her who the murderer is, and throughout the monologue different paths of the story are woven in.
This starts with the reader at first wanting to know who the murderer was, and then when we work out who it is the text leads us onto wondering whether Marjory knows that its her husband, or whether she’s in denial, and then when we realise she definitely knows that its her husband we wonder whether he will be convicted or not. I think you tend to feel more sympathy and involvement with Marjory in The Outside Dog, because it seems that she is unaware that her husband is a murderer, he seems to use her to get rid of his frustrations, by making her have sex with him after every murder, and the way she sticks by him makes you feel sorry for her.
Whereas in The Speckled Band, the story is being told as if it was in the past, and you are more bothered about working out how the murder was committed than the safety of Helen, and the tragedy of Julia’s murder. This has a lot to do with the fact that you know that Sherlock Holmes will solve the mystery in the end as he always does, which leaves you with a secure feeling that you don’t have to wonder about the fate of Helen. The differences in the two types of murder in the two texts, and their setting might be able to be explained by the two authors’ backgrounds, social classes, and time at which they were alive.
Alan Bennett was born in Leeds in 1934, and won a scholarship to Oxford. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in London in 1859, and died in 1930. He trained as a doctor in Edinburgh, and published short stories in a magazine called the strand- these stories became so popular that he gave up his job. The Outside Dog was set in a northern location, identified by the dialect using words such as ‘swilling’ places mentioned. The Speckled Band was set in London.
In the case of both texts, the authors have set them in locations near where they had been brought up and lived, their characters also lived in the same class that they had been brought up in. Alan Bennett had a working class background, and Marjory and her family are shown to be working class in The Outside Dog, by the house they live in, jobs they have (Marjory’s husband works in a slaughter house), and language they use. Many of the sentences are incomplete such as ‘couldn’t find his slacks. ‘ and standard English isn’t used at all.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the other hand had a middle class background, and he also shows his characters to be middle class. Sherlock Holmes uses standard English, old fashioned vocabulary, and all of the characters used are middle-class, which is shown by the fact that they lived in good areas of the country, and better housing, for example Helen Stoner lives in a large house, and is a descendant of one of the richest families in England. The authors’ social differences may have caused the authors to write their texts for different purposes.