In this essay I will be comparing the two stories ‘The Speckled Band’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ by Roald Dahl.
‘The Speckled Band’ was written in 1892.This was in The Victorian Period when people had very little faith in the Police and Conan Doyle needed to create a Detective who always got everything right so that the public started to believe the Police could actually get it right. It was first published in a magazine called “The Strand” in weekly episodes so to a certain extent he needed to keep his readers interested as well which is why the plot is so complicated. The plot is about a woman called Helen Stoner who is going to get married, but someone or something murders her sister who also was supposed to get married. Helen Stoner goes to see Sherlock Holmes to see if he can help solve the crime. The plot is full of twists and red herrings that is up to the reader to try and solve as they go along but as always Sherlock Holmes works out the significance of everything and solves the crime.
‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ was written in 1954by Roald Dahl. This story was also published in a magazine called “Harpers” but was written to be read in one go so it does not have the complicated layout of Conan Doyles story. Instead the reader knows exactly what is going on form the start of the story and the ending is shocking and designed to entertain and horrify. It was written by Dahl to show how women at the time were a lot more powerful than the men gave them credit for and should be respected more than being at home , pregnant.
The plot is about a modern couple that seem to be falling out. Mary Maloney is the perfect 1950’s housewife who makes dinner and cleans, but one day when her husband (Patrick Maloney) comes home from work they have an argument. Mary loses her temper with Patrick and hits him over the head with a leg of lamb and accidentally kills him. In a panic she phones the police and puts the leg of lamb in the oven to cook for dinner. When the police arrive she persuades them to eat the lamb because it would be a waste of food. In the end the police eat the evidence and Mary didn’t get caught. Dahl uses comic irony at the end to engage the reader as Mary sits there laughing about what she has done; you don’t imagine her to do this as a middle class housewife.
The times that these stories are set in are both very different. Like travel, in ‘The Speckled Band’. They travel by horse and cart but in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ trey use car or foot just like in the modern day. For communication the people in 1892 would have to write or go and see the person they wanted to talk to but in 1954 they would have used the telephone. Also in 1892 they did not have much electricity so they used candles instead of light, whereas in 1954 they had lots of electricity. In 1892 the women would have worn veils and long skirts but in 1954 they would have they would have worn jeans, t-shirt etc. in 1892 rich families would lived in large houses with servants but in the modern day most families are middle classed and do not have the money for servants etc. When there was an enquiry in 1892 the detectives would have had to use their own knowledge to solve crimes but in 1954 they would use fingerprints, evidence etc to solve the crimes.
The language used in ‘The Speckled Band’ was old fashioned and very formal like when Sherlock Holmes says “Very sorry to knock you up Watson, ” said he, “but it’s the common lot this morning.” He also says things like “Mrs Hudson has been knocked up, she reported upon me, and I on you.” This isn’t the kind of language we would use in the modern day and proves that it is set in 1892.
However in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ there was a lot of slang and it was not as formal. Like when Mary says “Hullo darling.” And ” Hullo Sam” to the grocer. However the way she speaks to Sam the grocer proves it was set in the 1950’s and not in any other time because we would not know the person in the corner shops first name today but it was common in the 1950’s to be friendly with them.
In ‘The Speckled Band’ Sherlock Holmes is the main character. He is a famous detective and solves difficult cases. Conan Doyle invented him because people in the Victorian times were fed with the fact that the police could not solve any crimes and he wanted a character that always got everything right. However in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ there were police who are good at solving cases but wouldn’t be able to solve them without any evidence and they are very arrogant and treat Mary as a silly woman when in fact she is the person who has tricked them and been the murderer. Dahl does this to shock his readers and make it even more dramatic which Conan Doyle would not want to do because they needed to trust their detective!
In ‘The Speckled Band’ the killer was a snake that had been hypnotised by Helen Stoner’s stepfather, but all the way through the story he is a suspect and he acts suspiciously like when Helen goes to visit Sherlock Holmes to tell him what has been going on, shortly after she leaves her stepfather came in asking if she has been here. It seemed like he had something to hide, but in the end it had nothing to do with him.
In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ Mary seems like a nice, gentle woman who feels that she has to help out. Like when she says,
“Darling, shall I get your slippers?” but after the police eat the evidence she laughs so I think he whole issue hade made her go a bit insane. At the beginning of the story you didn’t expect it from her because she just seems like a normal, average wife like when it said about ‘She took his coat and hung it in the closet.’ and when it said ‘She was sat back again in her chair with the sewing.’ The scene seems too realistic for something bad to happen.
In ‘The Speckled Band’ the victim was Helen Stoner’s sister because there was nothing anyone could do to save her; this made the readers feel very sorry for her. The next victim was Helen Stoner and because nobody knew what killed her sister it seemed that she needed protection. I would expect someone like her to be the next victim because she is a woman who has done nothing wrong and is innocent. I don’t think her or her sister deserved to be the victims because they are both just happy and normal people.
In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ you don’t feel sorry for Patrick because he is being horrible to Mary and you feel automatically on her side from the beginning. I think he deserved to be upset but not killed because they are just having a falling out.
‘The Speckled Band’ is set in Stoke Moran, which is Helen’s stepfather house. Sherlock Holmes is investigating the house. I think it is a good setting for a murder to take place and because it’s a very big house which makes it creepier for the reader because you don’t know what is doing the killings.
‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is set in Mary Maloney’s house. I think the way the author has described it makes it sound very realistic, like when he says,
“The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight.” This makes the room sound cosy and like it really exists. You can really picture the scenery. I also think it’s a good setting for a murder because you can imagine it happening there. I think I would expect it because so many crimes in real life have been taken place in houses.
Out of the two stories I preferred ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ because it is easier to understand and keeps you interested all the way though with the description it uses. I disliked the other story because the speaking parts dragged on to long and I did really just want to get on and find out what happens.