In this essay I am going to compare and contrast two stories from the murder mystery genre of the 19th Century. The stories are ‘The Judge’s house’ by Bram Stoker and ‘The Speckled Band’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. These stories are both important because they are a part of a traditional murder, mystery and detective stories that are still popular today. In the 19th Century, the importance of short stories in this genre was very high. The beliefs of witch Craft, animal powers, magic, the afterlife and super natural behaviors were beginning to emerge.
The public was showing considerable interest in these dramatic and gripping stories, and so the magazine and newspaper publishers started to take advantage of this craze. They would publish a short story in each edition of their magazine that finished on a cliffhanger; the conclusion being published in the next edition. This sold a greater number of magazines.
To create an effective and gripping murder/mystery story, there are many key aspects which need attention. Most of the time, the murder takes place at the beginning of the story, possibly even the opening scene. This then sets up the remainder of the story for the investigation and the final ‘who dunnit’. To create suspense and tension in the story, many factors like twists in the plot, red herrings and false accusations are dropped in. These constantly keep the reader asking questions in their heads and trying to solve the murder themselves. The crimes are rarely solved by just a regular police officer; a well-known detective or inspector, like Sherlock Holmes, usually solves them.
After a gradual release of clues throughout the story, the murder is solved towards the end by the detective. He then reveals the motives of the murderer. Although both stories have different plots, structures and styles of narration, they share many aspects of this genre’s tradition. ‘The Speckled Band’ by Conan Doyle is the tale of a ruthless, greedy, money-driven stepfather who uses his knowledge and intelligence as a doctor to murder his two nieces for their inheritance. The first niece dies in mysterious circumstances, and when the second niece realized she was heading for the same fate, she ran to Sherlock Holmes for help. Using his minute observational skills and his dignified and cunning talent, Holmes heads for the house where these inexplicable events had occurred. As expected, he solved the crime.
‘The Judges House’ by Bram Stoker is a tale of an intelligent man who seeks to find refuge from the constant distractions of everyday life. He randomly chooses a town called Benchurch; an empty, “sleepy town” where he believes he can study in peace, ready for his examinations. Something he does not realise straight away is that he was isolated, cut off with nobody to contact if there was any trouble. He chooses a large, “eerie looking” house to live in. Numerous locals tried to lure him away from staying there, but he dismissed the tales as “absurd”.
Whilst staying in the house, a number is peculiar and weird events took place, all gradually leading up to the murder of Malcolm Malcolmson. The ghost of the house, the Judge, murdered him. He used a lethal combination of shock and fear to stun Malcolmson whilst he strangled him to death with the bell rope. Upon close and detailed reading, we can see the differences and similarities of the two stories. The narration of the two stories is different. One tale, ‘The Judges House’, is told by an omniscient narrator who can see everything and knows everyone’s feelings and thoughts. The narration is the main device used to create and build up the tension throughout the story. The Sherlock Holmes tale is told in first person through the voice of Watson. He reveals clues as he sees them.
The two stories show similar characteristics by the way the narrator often refers to the weather to reflect the mood of the scene. In ‘The Judges House’ the narrator sets the scene, before he is killed by the judge, as a creepy and dark night. He accomplishes this by referring to the weather. “The evening was colder than might have been expected…a heavy wind was blowing”. The narrator is trying to create tension because it was “colder than expected”. It was not a typical night weather wise, and so it is suggesting other irregular events are going to take place.
The narrator also uses the weather to incorporate dramatic foreshadowing. “There was every promise of a storm during the night”. The narrator was hinting that something bad was going to happen. In ‘The Speckled Band’, the weather is also used to create an atmosphere of tension. “It was a wild night…the wind was howling outside”. This sets a spooky and mysterious atmosphere. The words “wild” and “howling” are words associated with spooky scenes. “Howling” could be giving an image of a wolf howling.