During the time period that Doyle wrote his stories Britain had a growing empire covering two fifths of the world. This growth in empire led to a huge fascination for the exotic. British people believed that they were the most civilised people in the world, hence they saw new cultures as uncivilised suspicious and strange. The aim of these stories was to shock people so the stories were unpredictable, strange, violent and gloomy. Doyle used the elements of gothic and exotic to create a mysterious and tense atmosphere efficiently, as he wrote short stories Doyle had less space and words to create the right atmosphere suspense and excitement.
Theses elements of gothic are present in all of his stories ‘Making our way among the trees, we reached the lawn, crossed it, and were about to enter through the window when out from a clump of laurel bushes there darted what seemed to be a hideous distorted child… ‘ This quote was taken from The Speckled Band as the reader reads this they become horrified and intrigued, they become more interested in the story and want to read on to see what this hideous creature will do to the two characters. This gives it the element of supernatural. Also Doyle uses strong and theatrical adjectives.
This element of gothic is used in all of Doyle’s stories including The Man With The Twisted Lip and The Devils Foot, ‘.. and there is absolutely no explanation of what the horror can be which has frightened a women to death and two strong men out of their senses.. ‘ and ‘ Ay, bodies. We should be rich men if we had 1000 pound for every poor devil who has been done to death in that den. ‘ This again makes the reader interested in the stories, as they become terrified at the deaths and want to know why and how these deaths have taken place. Doyle’s characters also used sensational writing to help create the essential atmosphere quicker.
Examples of sensational writing are present in The Speckled Band, ‘You may advice me how to walk amid the dangers which encompass me. ‘ And ‘A vague feeling of impending misfortune impressed me. ‘ This language exaggerates things and maybe makes them seem a lot worse then they are. To ensure that the mystery itself is properly described, no detail is left out and this creates vivid images. Doyle puts across horrific details this makes the story seem more believable. He goes to great lengths to describe everything so that a full picture can be constructed without leaving anything to the imagination.
Whilst this is a fairly aggressive way of treating the reader, it ensures that they read the story in exactly the right way. The Devils foot and The Speckled Band are locked room cases. Locked room cases are cases where murder has been committed but there is no sign of forced entry, no wounds or marks on the dead bodies and no possible ways to murder are visible. ‘ … the flooring and walls are sound, and that the door and chimney are impassable, then the sister must have been undoubtedly alone when she met her mysterious end. ‘ The locked room cases give the story a feeling of supernatural, which again interests the reader.
Doyles locked room case stories are influenced by Poe’s story; ‘Murder on the rue Morgue. This shows us that there is no way that any person could have entered the room and committed the murder, this creates more suspense and a element of supernatural as the readers think there has to be some sort of magic involved in the murder. Another example of this is ‘There was no sign of the presence of any one… Nothing had been stolen or disarranged.. ‘ this shows us again that there is no forced entry, and leaves us thinking how could the murder have been committed.
Every detective story has clues and red herrings. The red herrings keep the reader misguided, but the interest remains aroused till the end. Again it is another way of making the detective look intelligent, as he was not misguided from the red herrings. The clues help the reader try to solve the mystery like a detective while they are reading these stories. One of the conventions for writing a detective story is that no clue must be hidden from the reader and that the clues must be in chronological order so readers can try and solve the mystery correctly and so that they are more involved with the story.
Doyle follows this convention very well as while reading his stories the reader feels involved hence creating more interest. In every detective story there needs to be a victim or victims. In detective stories set about Victorian times these victims tended to be women. Women were seen as the weaker sex in Victorian times and this is displayed in all of Doyle’s stories, ‘ How could she, a young and timid woman, make her way into such a place and pluck her husband out from among the ruffians who surround him?
‘ This quote taken from The Man With The Twisted Lip shows Watson’s views towards women, he finds them feeble and weak and fragile. This is not only Watson’s view but other men’s as well. A woman being the weaker sex is exhibited in all of Doyle’ s stories. ‘… in the first case a woman, who had presumably the more sensitive organism, was killed, the others exhibiting the temporary or permanent lunacy. ‘ This quote was taken from The Devils Foot and it shows again that the women are seen as fragile and feeble in the eyes of Victorians and they need protecting by men.
Just as you need a victim in every detective story you also need a villain. One of the conventions for writing a detective genre is to introduce the villain at the beginning of the story rather than the end. Doyle does this perfectly as in every story he writes he makes sure he introduces the villain at the start. Social values such as an evil person looks evil and is also evil physically are depicted be Doyle’s villains. They all have a gothic look about them, such as deformed bodies and faces. ‘…
was thin, dark, spectacled man, with a stoop which gave the impression of actual, physical deformity. ‘ That quote was taken from The Devils Foot and it shows the villain as an evil looking person. This again depicts the Social values that were viewed by the Victorians. Other examples of this are, ‘… save a crippled wretch of hideous aspect. ‘ and ‘A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, … bile-shot blue eyes, and his high, thin, fleshless nose, gave him a somewhat resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey’.
These descriptions succeed in describing a really evil looking person, and almost from the start you know that this person will be the villain. Another social value that was believed in Victorian times was that the working classes were the criminals, the gypsies were viewed this way as well. They both were thought to be poor in wealth and spirits. However in Doyle’s stories the villain were always from the middle class or the upper class. This depicts that the working classes are not only the criminals but the middle and upper class are as well. This stereotype acts as red herring in Doyle’s stories.
In The Speckled Band the villain is a doctor, while in The Devils Foot it was a clergyman and in The Man With The Twisted Lip it was a middle class gentleman. These men are all of either wealth or profession and them being criminals goes totally against the Social values during the Victorian times. This shocks the readers and demonstrates that crime is everywhere and any one can be a criminal not just the working class. Another important part of a detective story is the denouemont. A denouemont is when Holmes explains how the crime was committed and the motive so that the readers can understand.
He also explains how he solved it and what clues he had. This also tells the readers what the red herrings were. An example of a denouemont ‘… there is a single common point of resemblance in the varying reports… This concerns the atmosphere of the room in each case upon those who had first entered it… You will admit, Watson, that these facts are very suggestive. In each case there is evidence of a poisonous atmosphere. In each case, also, there is combustion going on in the room – – in the one case a fire, in the other a lamp. ‘
This quote taken from The Devils Foot shows us how Holmes sums up the clues relevant for this case, also how these murders have been committed. Another example of Holmes denouemont is present in The Speckled Band, ‘ I had come to these conclusions before ever I had entered his room. An inspection of his chair showed me that he had been in a habit of standing on it, which of course would be necessary in order that he should reach the ventilator… … The metallic clang heard by Miss Stoner was obviously caused by her stepfather hastily closing the door of his safe upon it’s terrible occupant…
‘ Again Holmes sums up how this crime took place and the clues that led to him solving this case. The readers are not as clever as Holmes and will need him to explain what has happened and why. Doyle’s stories follow a set pattern, they all follow the rules of the detective genre, in fact that the rules of detective genre were set on Doyle’s stories. His stories were really popular during Victorian times as they represented justice and made people feel secure that some one was out there cleaning up the streets of crime. However a lot has changed since the Victorian times.
These days detectives and villains can be women. The villains do not necessary look evil and often the people you expect to be villains are not the actual villains. During the Victorian period Doyle had to base his stories on the Middle class values, as middle class people read his stories most. Also as he was the member of the class himself. In conclusion Doyle has used a lot of different elements and techniques to make his stories interesting and gripping. Hence writing stories based on the conventions will ensure an absorbing and a thrilling read until the end.