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???? In this

essay, I intend to compare and contrast the two short stories ?The Speckled

Band? by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, and ?Lamb to the Slaughter? by Roald Dahl,

picking out techniques used which make it exactly, or exactly the opposite of a

typical detective story/murder mystery. ??????? When many

people think of a murder mystery, they think of a dark and stormy night, a

large forbidding house, a gunshot heard by everyone yet seen by no one, and the

phrases ?you?re probably wondering why I called you all here?, ?The butler did

it?, and of course not forgetting ?elementary, my dear Watson?. In the end, the

intelligent and very observant detective solves the case, and justice,

sometimes through the courts and sometimes poetic, is served. ??????? Both ?The Speckled Band? and ?Lamb to the Slaughter?? have ingredients for a detective story, i.e.

they both have a murderer who is cold and calculating, and just that little bit

mad. On the other hand, they are presented to us very differently, making one

story very typical of its genre, and making the other very untypical of the

murder mystery genre. ??????? Both Conan-Doyle and Dahl use various techniques to make

their stories more interesting; for example, in Dahls ?Lamb to the Slaughter?

the story revolves around the character of Mrs Mary Maloney, loving housewife

and psychopathic killer. Whereas many stories concentrate on the detective or

sometimes the victim, this story concentrates on the character of the murderer.

This perspective helps with the telling of the murder, making it more

unexpected. The story includes two major plot twists; the first being the

murder itself, made unexpected by what we have seen of Mary Maloneys character,

the setting, and the form the murder weapon takes among other things. The

second plot twist is at the end, where the detectives eat the murder weapon. Conan-Doyle

used techniques in writing ?The Speckled Band? also. His story revolves around

the character of the detective, Sherlock Holmes, which is a preferred technique

of mystery novelists, probably because it leaves a place for sequels. The

story, though centred on Holmes, is told as seen through the eyes of his

companion, Dr Watson, providing a good example of writing in the first person.

Unlike Dahls story, "The Speckled Band" is a classic ‘whodunit’, and

so, like many ‘whodunits’ there is suspense. ??????? Although both the stories have some of the typical components

of a detective story, they are presented differently, differing noticeably in

the setting, the characters and of course the plot, as I intend to show in this

essay. ??????? In ?The Speckled Band, the setting of the main part of the

story is very typical of the murder mystery genre. The story is set in an old

forbidding house. Just the look of it could make you think twice about going

inside; after all, it could collapse on you any moment, as Dr Watson described. ??????? ?In one of the wings the windows were broken, and blocked

with wooden boards, while the roof was partly caved in, a picture of ruin.???????? The manor of Stoke Moran is the kind of place that you would

expect to be the setting of a murder mystery if you read the description. The

more successful mystery authors like Arthur Conan-Doyle favour this type of

setting (he used a ?large forbidding house? setting for other stories, such as

?Hound of the Baskervilles?). Conan-Doyle being one of the most widely read

mystery authors, alone through his use of this type of setting made the ?large

forbidding house? a typical murder setting. Agatha Christie, another famous

mystery author, used this type of setting for some of her novels. She too being

one of the authors to shape the typical detective story helped this setting to

become associated with this genre. ??????? While Stoke Moran is the typical setting of a murder mystery,

the Maloney residence is not. The setting fore the story is a warm 1950?s

family home, belonging to Mr and Mrs Patrick Maloney. Dahl starts the story

with a short description of the setting. ?The room was warm and clean, the

curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight, hers and the one by the empty chair

opposite.? ??????? This description as you can see is not at all like the

typical setting for this type of story, and definitely nothing like the

description of Stoke Moran. This technique lulls the reader into a false sense

of security, making you unaware of what is going to happen. The way it is

portrayed, you are shocked when the murder happens, which is exactly Dahl?s

intent. ??????? With the murderers, Conan-Doyle went with the more

traditional approach, making him very typical. The character of the murderer is

Dr Roylott, a very violent man. You can assume that he is the murderer in this

story just by the description Dr Watson gives of him. He describes Dr Roylott

as ?a huge man?, who possessed ?A large face seared with a thousand wrinkles

and marked with every evil passion?. He has ?deep-set, bile shot eyes? and a

?high thin fleshless nose, (which) gave him the resemblance of a fierce bird of

pray? ??????? Dr Roylott would seem to be evil from the start. Watson on

looking at him remarked that his face was ?marked with every evil passion? and

this appearance gives a prediction of what the personality may be like, in this

case evil. If you had heard what Helen Stoner had told Holmes, you would assume

that this man was the same man whose ?violence of temper approaching mania?

resulted in ?long term imprisonment? in India because ?in a fit of anger caused

by some robberies which had been perpetuated in the house, he beat his native

butler to death.? ??????? Dr Roylott lived a secluded life once he moved to Stoke Moran.

Once he arrived, instead of being sociable, ?he shut himself up in his house,

and seldom came out, save to indulge in ferocious quarrels with whoever might

cross his path.? This lack of friends, and the absence of a friendly

personality resulted in a void, which he used anger to fill. He became an

embittered angry man after the death of his wife. Helen Stoner said that after

the death of his wife, he abandoned all ideas of setting up a practise in

London and moved to Stoke Moran. ?But a terrible change came over our

stepfather at that time? he became the terror of the village, and folks would

fly at his approach, for he is a man of immense strength, and absolutely

uncontrollable in his anger.? This, along with my other points proves that Dr

Grimsby Roylott was an extremely violent man, who could quite possibly be

capable of murdering his own daughters with little or no remorse, just for

money. ??????? In ?Lamb to the Slaughter? however, the murderer is not so

typical. In fact, Mrs Mary Maloney is more of a typical victim than a murderer.

Would you suspect a person who is described as someone who ?now and

again? would glance up at the clock? merely to please herself with the thought

that each minute gone by made it nearer the time when he would come.? (The ?he?

being her husband, the man she is going to kill.) She already seems like a

loving, caring housewife waiting for her husband to come home on a Thursday

night, hardly capable of murder. As I said

before, Dr Roylott would seem to be evil right from the start, and so Dahl

writing this story to be anti-stereotypical of the detective novel creates a

murderer who does not resemble a fierce bird of pray, but instead there is ?a

slow smiling air about her and about everything she does?. Dahl goes on to

describe her more, using phrases such as ?curiously tranquil?, ?Her skin? had

acquired a wonderful translucent quality,? and ? The eyes? seemed larger,

darker than before? What makes her so untypical though, more than all these

descriptive phrases was that ?this was her sixth month with child?; a pregnant

murderer! If Dr Roylott is the typical murderer, then Mary Maloney is the

opposite of all we associate with murderers. The way Dahl

develops his character for Mary Maloney though makes her definitely the more

interesting of the two villains. She goes from a loving housewife waiting for

her husband to come home, to a woman with a frozen leg of lamb above her head,

just about to swing it down and kill him as an act of revenge, and then to a

very cold and calculating woman, covering her tracks perfectly by getting an

alibi and destroying the murder weapon. The change in character is amazing.

Would you think that the woman who ? at that point? simply walked up behind him

and without any pause? swung the frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought

it down as hard as she could on the back of his head? was the same woman who I

described earlier on. The strange thing about this woman is that instead of

reacting to this terrible crime she committed, merely tells herself ?Alright?

so I?ve killed him? The change in

her character happens immediately at this point. ?It was extraordinary, now,

how clear her mind became all of a sudden. She began thinking very fast.? She

decides that she doesn?t mind the death penalty is acceptable. ?In fact, it

would be a relief?. This is not the general frame of mind of a housewife

totally devoted to her husband, or a murderess who has just killed the husband

she was totally devoted to. She seems either totally in control of the

situation and trying to cover it up, or in shock or denial. Personally, I think

she is a bit of both at this point in the story. Throughout the

police investigation, she acts totally innocent, unlike Dr Roylott. She

manipulates the detectives into having a drink of whiskey and that slows down

their deductive reasoning, making them not realise that when they are sat at

the table, they are eating the murder weapon. She almost seems as if she has

done this before. Her intelligence and ability to cover her tracks well make

her more like a murderer, yet the fact that she succeeded makes the story all

the more different from the typical murder mystery. The character of Mary

Maloney is the last person you would think of as a murderer. She is a pregnant

loving housewife who ?loved to luxuriate in the presence? of her husband- the

man she killed. This is why she is such an untypical and interesting character. As for

victims, Conan-Doyle makes the most typical character in Helen Stoner. The typical

victim in a murder mystery is a person, usually a woman when the murderer is as

typical as Dr Roylott, and almost always rich or about to come into money. Miss

Helen Stoner fits this description to the letter. Firstly, she is a woman

obviously, and a scared one, terrified by her predicament. ?It is not cold

which makes me shiver? It is terror?. As for the

second requirement, money, it is revealed that Helen Stoner is about to come

into a fairly large amount. She says that an agreement was made whereby all her

mothers fortune was to go to Dr Roylott, ?with a provision that a certain

annual sum should be allowed to each of us in the event of our marriage?, then

later reveals that she will be marrying ?a dear friend, whom I have known for

many years? Later in the

plot, Holmes uncovers the will of Helen Stoner?s mother, and finds out ?each

daughter can claim an income of £250, in case of marriage.? So, from all these

quotes, we can determine that after Helen Stoner?s wedding, Dr Roylott would

have had to given her £250 per year- an amount which could have ruined the

?good doctor?, as at the time the story was set, £250 had much more value than

it does now. So we have a

scared woman just about to come into money. She seems the type who couldn?t put

up much of a fight. A fairly typical victim, and then, you look at ?Lamb to the

Slaughter?. Looking at the description of Mary Maloney, she seems to be the

perfect choice for the character of the victim of this story, yet she turns out

to be the murderer. So, in-keeping with the theme of opposite characters, we

ask ourselves, ?Who would be the least likely to be the victim?? The answer is

her husband, Patrick Maloney. Firstly, he?s

a policeman- a sergeant- so that gets rid of the anxious, terrified image.

Secondly he seems quite aggressive, but that could be just the whiskey and

soda, or the news that he?s just about to tell her. Also he?s not particularly

rich, and the only wealth he?s likely to come into in the near future is his

pay packet. In short, he is definitely not the typical victim. He seems to

have done something scandalous which, when he tells his wife, becomes her

motive. This day when he comes home, he is particularly on edge because of the

?scandalous event?. You can tell this by his mannerisms inparticular. He seems

irritated and gives short answers to the questions Mrs Maloney asks. ??Tired

darling?? ?Yes? he said ?I?m tired?? He also seems to be drinking more than

usual, draining half a glass of his whiskey and soda ?in one swallow?. Maybe

trying to boost his courage with some ?Dutch Courage?. You can see by the way

he gives short monosyllabic answers, and the way he words some of these

answers, that he is irritated. He adopts some of the mannerisms of our typical

murderer, making it all the more unexpected when he becomes the victim. Now detectives.

Conan-Doyle?s story, ?The Speckled Band? centres around the detective- the

original typical detective- Sherlock Holmes, whereas in Dahl?s ?Lamb to the

Slaughter?, the detectives, led by Jack Noonan, play a comparatively minor role

in the story. Holmes is, as

I have already pointed out, the classic detective. Assisted by Dr Watson, he

makes the ?rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on

a logical basis? that have made him so famous among avid readers and film buffs

alike as the super-sleuth of Baker Street. Holmes has a clear and very sharp

ability to deduce even the most complex mysteries, a gift which Dr Watson

admires greatly. He says ?I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in

his professional investigations, and admiring?(the way in which)?he unravelled

the problems which were submitted to him.? Holmes takes every chance he gets to

exercise, or sometimes show off, his abilities. When talking t Helen Stoner,

her says ?You have come by train I see? I observe the second half of a return

ticket in the? palm of your left glove.?

He then goes on to deduce that she went to the train station by dog-cart. ?The

left arm of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven places. The

marks are perfectly fresh. There is no vehicle save a dog-cart which throws up

mud in that way, and only when you sit on the left hand side of the driver.? He

may be exercising his skill, or he may be using this occurrence as a sales

tactic, impressing a potential client. Basically,

Holmes is presented as an observant, intelligent and committed detective, which

is the typical investigators role in a murder mystery. On the other

hand, in ?Lamb to the Slaughter?, the detectives are as unobservant as Holmes

is observant, as unintelligent as Holmes is intelligent, and as uncommitted as

Holmes is committed. In short, they are Holmes? exact opposites. Their first

show of observance is when Mrs Maloney is talking to them on the phone:

??Quick! Come quick! Patrick?s dead!? ?Who?s

speaking?? ?Mrs Maloney.

Mrs Patrick Maloney.? ?You mean

Patrick Maloney?s dead?? This last sentence shows that they may be just a bit

on the slow side. The main

detective in the story- although there are three others there- is Sergeant Jack

Noonan. He is definitely not over observant or intelligent. Firstly, he allows

Mrs Maloney to persuade him to drink some whiskey while on duty. This makes him

less observant, since whiskey is strong enough to dull the mind and the senses.

He also assumes that since Patrick Maloney was hit with a large, blunt, heavy

object, it had to be a man since a woman may not have been able to use an

object that heavy. His phrase for cases like this one was ?Get the weapon,

you?ve got the man?, the final part of this being the appropriate point- strengthening

this point; the first part of the phrase is an appropriate quote for my next

point- he orders his men to search for the weapon for six hours, even though if

it had been an attack like he suggests, it is more likely the murderer would

have taken the weapon with him for a way, then buried it or hidden it

somewhere. This all shows that he doesn?t follow up every angle of the case. He

doesn?t mention anything about a motive; how the murderer got into the house;

why, if the murderer didn?t use a weapon already in the house, he would have

left it anywhere near the crime scene; or even why nobody would have noticed a

man or woman walking into the Maloney house carrying a large sledgehammer, then

walk out again five minutes later either not holding it or with it covered in

blood. He?s kind to

Mrs Maloney because he knows her, which is fine, but would Holmes be kind and

overlook Watson if there was a possibility that he killed his own wife? Finally, and most importantly, after he spends six

hours looking for the murder weapon, he goes into the kitchen and eats it, not

having put together the facts that Sam the Grocer probably told him that Mary

was cooking a leg of lamb straight from frozen, and that this particular leg of

lamb was shaped like a club. The main difference

though between the two detectives though is that in the end, Holmes solves the

case while the detectives don?t, and even if they had, they would have already

destroyed all the evidence they had. The

resolutions of the two stories are, as I have just touched on, very different.

?The Speckled Band? ends with Holmes figuring out the mystery, and thwarting

the evil Dr Roylott, using the Dr?s own method of killing his daughters to put

an end to him, creating a poetic justice when the snake, Dr Roylott?s ?murder

weapon? turns and, enraged by Holmes hitting it with a stick, crawls back

through the ventilator and bites Dr Roylott. This is quite a typical

resolution- justice has been served, the murderer brought about his own

destruction, helped along by the intelligent detective setting the means of

murder against the murderer. By the end of the story the reader is left feeling

satisfied with the ending. Good has triumphed, evil hasn?t, the right person

came out on top, and the world is a much safer place to live in, etc. In ?Lamb

to the Slaughter? however, the ending follows a different. After the

detectives have spent hours searching the premises, Mrs Maloney manipulates

them into eating the leg of lamb in the oven, which just happens to be the

murder weapon; and the story closes with Mrs Maloney giggling while the

detectives talk amongst themselves. ??Have some more Charlie?? ?No. Better

not finish it? ?She wants us to finish it. She said so. Be

doing her a favour? ?Okay then

give me some more? Personally, I think (the weapon?s) right here on the

premises? ?Probably

right under our very noses. What do you think Jack?? And in the

other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle? Some may

interpret this giggle as a sign that she has gone psychopathic, others may say

she is just giggling at the irony of the situation. Personally, I think maybe a

bit of both. The ending is definitely not entirely typical, but in some ways it

is. The person who the story is based around wins, therefore the story does not

seem unfulfilling. Its just that the story is based around the murderer.

Because of the way they are resolved, both stories end well, giving a feeling

that the right person won, although in the case of ?Lamb to the Slaughter?, the

?right person? happens to be a possible psychopath. Dahl engineered the story

to make you feel as if there was nothing missing, whereas the main ingredient

of the detective story- justice- is absent (or it could have taken the form of

the murder, depending on what Patrick Maloney told his wife) Dahl and

Conan-Doyle have engineered the two stories well, but in my opinion, Dahls

story, ?Lamb to the Slaughter?, is the better of the two, for two main reasons.

Firstly, Dahl

has written this story specifically to go against the traditional detective story,

making the setting, plot and characters untypical. Secondly, I particularly

like the way in which Dahls characters develop as the story goes on. Mary

Maloney goes from loving housewife and potential victim to possible

psychopathic murderer. Patrick Maloney develops from potential psychopathic

murderer to dead victim, and the detectives? well the detectives are pretty dim

to begin with anyway. While Dahl?s

characters are flexible, Conan-Doyle?s stay rigid and static. Dr Roylott stays

violent, Helen Stoner stays terrified, and Holmes stays as vigilant and

observant as ever. The main

ingredient of a detective story is that the villain is caught and justice is

achieved. This happens in ?The Speckled Band?, with the poetic justice of Dr

Roylott?s death, but in ?Lamb to the Slaughter? it doesn?t, and the villain

gets off ?scot-free?. Even if they had found her out, they wouldn?t have any

evidence. The main ingredient is missing in ?Lamb to the Slaughter?, but even

so, that doesn?t make the story any worse.

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