What do you learn about Detective Fiction in nineteenth century from a comparison of short stories “The Speckled Band” and “The Man with the twisted lip” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was among the first writers of detective stories and novels in England. The first novel recognised as a detective story was written in 1868, by Wilkie Collins entitled “The Moonstone”. Other writers followed and started writing detective fiction such as people like Edgar Allan Poe and Agatha Christie. One of the main ones was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the “Sherlock Holmes stories”.
He first wrote in a weekly magazine called the “Strand”, the public loved these stories, and eventually they were published as books. The character of “Sherlock Holmes” was so convincing that people actually thought he existed, this shows that the writer developed his character well. In the 20th Century Detective fiction got so popular it started being shown on TV and there were many famous pairs such as Inspector Poirot and Hastings, and Jonathan Creek and Maddie Magellan. They all work as pairs, like Holmes” and “Watson. Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, “Sherlock Holmes”, lived in Victorian London during the 19th century.
His stories are set in a dark and isolated environment. The atmosphere is far from welcoming. The streets are overrun with crime, beggars and prostitutes and seedy areas like the “opium den” in “Man with the twisted lip”. The gas lamps provided dimly lit streets which flickered as passer-by walked on their way and the odour through the air was vile. This was the result of no sewage system and low levels of hygiene. The two main criminals at this time was “Sweeney Todd”, a barber famous for cutting his victims throats and turning them into meat pies, and “Jack the Ripper”, who mutilated and murdered prostitutes and whom was never discovered.
Because of this the public was interested in crime. Readers were middle class people who had an education, not the poor this is shown in the language and the way the characters dress. A detective fiction story must have a detective in it to solve a crime, which could be a murder, a disappearance or a theft and the detectives function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did it. This person leaves clues in the form of finger prints, footprints and more, some of these clues can be red herrings, these are false clues that can lead the detective off the scent, as in “The Speckled Band” and “The Man with the twisted lip”.
The detective then pieces these clues together and finds the culprit who must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story, that is, a person whom the reader is familiar with and whom he takes an interest. As a reader we are not told who the culprit is until the end, to keep us in suspense. The two short stories “The Speckled Band” and “The Man with the twisted lip” are linked because they both involve “Holmes” and “Watson” working together as a pair, the crimes are different; one is a murder, the other a disappearance.
Both Stories start with “Dr Watson” telling the story and showing how much he admires “Holmes”. “The Man with the twisted lip” begins with a sub-plot, with “Kate Witney” asking for help to find her husband “Isa”. “I do so need a little help”. In “The Speckled Band” Helen Stoner comes to Holmes for help following the death of her sister Julia as she is afraid; she expresses this as of “Fear”. “It is Fear, Mr Holmes. It is terror”. In both cases we see a helpless woman, which shows the role of women at the time as being dependent on men to solve there problems and they were treated as second class because they were dependent.
We see Mrs Hudson, the housekeeper doing domestic chores, light the fire, make breakfast and answer the door. In the “The Man with the twisted lip” Mrs Watson is seen doing her “needlework”. The similarities and contrasts in the two short stories are related to the setting, being in London and on the outskirts of London in the late 19th century. In “The Speckled Band” and “The Man with the twisted lip” we see Holmes and Watson travel as part of their investigation to the homes of Helen Stoner and Neville St Clair; the contrast is that “The Man with the twisted lip” is set in two different places, “The Cedars” and “The opium den”.
In the “The Man with the twisted lip” the home of Mr Neville St. Clair, “the cedars”, is set near Lee, in Kent, “a large villa, laid out the grounds very nicely”. But the disappearance was set in the opium den, a boarding house on “Swandam Lane”, a seedy part of central London. “The front room was plainly furnished as a sitting room, and led into a small bedroom which looked out upon the back of one of the wharves”. “The Speckled Band” is set in Stoke Moran on the Western border of Surrey in a run-down two-hundred year old mansion which is set in a few acres of ground.