In the speckled band, how does Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle produce a feeling of tension throughout the story so that the reader’s interest is maintained? Explain whether you find the ending of the story convincing or not explain your reasons It is wise to remember when embarking on this story, that it was written over one hundred years ago. Therefore although it is a classic it is clearly a very straightforward murder, mystery with little of the complex twists and turns of our modern day novels. However, this story will have been used as a benchmark for practically all our present day detective stories.
The author Conan-Doyle writes as the first person, yet he shrewdly chooses the character of Watson and not the famous Sherlock Holmes, thus enabling him to show the discussion between the two men. This allows the reader to follow Sherlock Holmes’ train of thought, perceived through the eyes of his companion, Watson. Many detective novels are written in this way, using a sidekick to allow open discussion between the two characters. This enables the detective to narrate his thoughts to his deputy, and consequently to the reader. Conan-Doyle starts to build the tension in the story from the outset.
He initially introduces the first main character Helen Stoner who is described skilfully by the author ” Her face all drawn and grey, with restless, frightened eyes, like those of a hunted animal”. This immediately conjures up the image of a “victim”, a poor helpless woman at her wits end. She seeks help from Sherlock Holmes as she feels her life is in danger. The first part of the story is Ms Stoner revealing the events leading up to her visit to Mr Holmes. This is cleverly done to build a picture for the reader. Conan- Doyle has mastered the techniques of drawing his audience in.
After only a few pages their interest is raised and they will start to make their own conclusions about who, why and what. His aim, and I believe he has been successful is to stimulate the readers curiosity, a basic human instinct. In Helen Stoners initial consultation we discover that she comes from a once wealthy and well renowned family, whose demise was brought about by a gambler. Upon her mothers death she was bequeathed a large amount of money, paid to her on her marriage. She currently lived with her cruel if somewhat reclusive stepfather in a large neglected manor house.
Her stepfather studied to be a Doctor in India and had a collection of exotic animals in his care. She was one of twins, but her sister had died two years previously in very suspicious circumstances. The events leading up to her sister death had started up again, and she feared history was repeating itself. Helen Stoner’s sister had been due to marry and one evening the two ladies had been discussing the forthcoming wedding plans. Later that same evening Helen Stoner had heard the “Wild screams of a terrified woman”. On immediate inspection it was found to be Ms Stoners sister, convulsing in agony.
The last words she had spoken were “Oh my God! Helen! It was the band! The speckled band ! ” This immediately prompts the reader to ask the question, “What is the speckled band? ” Conan-Doyle then goes on to introduce Doctor Roylott, Helen Stoners stepfather. He describes him in one long sentence. “A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other of us, while his deep-set, bile shot eyes, and the high thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey.