Both authors use fear and tension in their stories. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” was written in the nineteenth century and is set in Victorian England, whereas Talking in Whispers is set in Chile, and was written towards the end of the twentieth century, but both contain similar elements of fear and tension. The authors use different techniques in order to create tension and fear, and I will examine some of these in the course of my essay. I will begin by looking at Watson’s novel.
Fear and tension are created in three main ways in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”; namely character, setting and plot. First, I will look at character. The character that creates the most fear and tension in the story is Dr. Grimesby Roylett. He is a very angry, loud and impatient man. He is powerful and intelligent. He once “beat his native butler to death”. He is the “terror of the village” near his manor. He has no friends at all and says of himself, “I am a dangerous man to fall foul of”. He is described as “a fierce old bird of prey”, and he keeps wild animals. Doyle creates lots of fear and tension through the character of Roylett. He is described by his stepdaughter as a short tempered man with fits of rage approaching to mania, and then when Miss Stoner has left, Dr. Roylett comes in and proves all that has been said about him.
Next, I will examine setting. The setting of the story plays an important part in creating fear and tension, mainly through Stoke Morran and it’s manor. The manor and it’s grounds are in the middle of the countryside, and therefore it is easy to imagine that it could become very dark and desolate there. Also, wild animals (a cheetah and a baboon) are kept on the grounds thus adding to the sense of fear. The manor itself is very large and old, just the place for a murder mystery and this really helps with the atmosphere. The manor for all its size is largely uninhabited, with only a few rooms being used. This gives it an eerie atmosphere, a “place where anything could happen”.
Now, I will analyse the plot. Apart from a red herring near the start, the main part of the plot is “how was the crime committed?” and not “who did it?” as it is obvious almost from the beginning that Dr. Roylett is guilty. When Helen Stoner comes to Holmes, and talks about her sister’s death, she mentions that her sister’s last words were “it was the speckled band” and she says that the gypsies wore speckled handkerchiefs, and also that she thinks that the gypsies have been making the whistling noise. The reader jumps to the conclusion that the gypsies killed her sister.
However, once you get to Stoke Moran, your ideas and thoughts soon change. Holmes tries to get into Helen Stoner’s room from the outside, but finds it impossible, so the reader thinks that the killer must have come from the inside, and that the killer is Doctor Roylett. When Holmes finds the dummy bellpull, the ventilator, the milk and the marked chair, it starts to look like Dr Roylett committed the murder in a very complicated way.
When Holmes decides to spend the night in the room, the quiet and darkness, as well as Holmes saying that this was ‘a very dangerous situation’, makes this scene full of tension. When Holmes jumps up and strikes at the bellpull, the tension is both released and added to, because finally something has happened, but you are not totally sure what. Doyle often uses rather long, unfolding sentences in this story. This has two effects; one, to make sure that the reader is well informed and can think about what is written, and two, it keeps the pace of action slow.