Is ‘The Speckled Band’ as exciting as other Sherlock Holmes stories you have read? Detective stories first became popular in the Victorian era following the emergence of organized police forces in the 1830’s. Fascination with the criminal heros accompanied a corresponding interest in the methodical uncovering of crime. Public hangings were frequent and Victorian people feared crime greatly. This meant that when the detective stories came about they felt the fictional character that cracked every case became the perfect detective i. e. Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes was actually an amateur detective not a member of the London plaice force and the Victorians had a deep resentment against the police, as they were unable to solve the infamous Jack the Ripper crimes. This is why the detective stories and in particular Sherlock Holmes became so popular. Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories still remain popular now because the stories are well written, fast paced, and the plot encourages you to try and solve the stories yourself but the stories are always solved in the end, which the reader tends to find satisfying.
He uses many literary devices to convey an impression of suspense and mystery. They are placed throughout the story to ensure that the reader is always guessing as to what happens next. In my essay I will be looking at the literary devices that Conan Doyle uses in the ‘Speckled Band’, the ‘Engineers Thumb’ and the ‘Red Headed League’. ‘The Speckled Band’ is about a cruel stepfather (Dr Roylott) with an intention of murdering his stepdaughters to acquire their property. He succeeds in murdering his elder stepdaughter, Julia, in a mysterious way.
When his younger stepdaughter, Helen, gets suspicious about everything as the mysterious circumstances repeat themselves she contacts Mr Holmes in fear to help her find out whether her sisters death was a murder and who the murderer could be. Dr Roylott then tried to use an Indian snake to murder Helen Stoner and during the climax the snakes bites Dr Roylott himself. ‘The Red-headed league’ is about a mysterious organization which Holmes’ client, Mr Wilson was working for until it dissolved.
Finally this strange league turns out to be simply as cover up to distracting Mr Wilson while the criminals dig a secret passage from his cellar intending to rob gold from the ‘City Suburban Bank’. ‘The Engineers Thumb’ is about a Hydraulic engineer Victor Hatherly who is brought to Watson’s surgery with the top part of his thumb missing. Watson cleans up the wound and refers him to Holmes. Here he relates a strange, disjointed tail, which Holmes ends up investigating. The way the arch villain is presented to the reader in ‘The Speckled Band’ is a stereotypical arch villain.
Dr Roylott is the villain in this particular Sherlock Holmes story and he is made to seem frightening, threatening and to not care about anyone. His behavior suggests that he is not afraid of anyone else and that he is in control. We suspect he is a murderer and we see this when referring to the quote ”He became terror in the village”. This quote shows us that he is in control of the village because everyone is scared of him. Another quote that gives the reader the impression that Roylott is a villain is ”He is so cunning that I never know when I am safe from him”.
The Arch villain is clearly shown in the story by the descriptions that we are given of him. Quotes and facts suggest that Dr Roylott is an actual villain before we know the truth. ”In a fit of anger he murdered his native butler to death and suffered a long term imprisonment” suggesting he is dangerous. Conan Doyle wants the reader to feel intimidated by Dr Roylott by his appearance. ”He was a huge man, he has a large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles and burned yellow with the sun and marked with every evil passion”.