Criteria for a good short story Essay
Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website!
Does ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ meet your criteria for a good short story? A short story is a work of fiction shorter than a novel or novelette, and is one of the oldest forms of literature. Some of the most famous short stories are ‘The Canterbury Tales’ by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th Century. However, before the 1800s short stories did not get much respect, and were seen as a poor relation of the novel. At around 1835, Edgar Allen Poe became the first writer to make the short story a distinct literary form.
After this the popularity of this form of literature grew in popularity due to short stories being published in magazines and journals, becoming widely available.
‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ was written by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1892. It was published as part of a book of twelve short stories, all in the crime genre. Conan Doyle was and still is famous for his crime stories involving the great detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Before taking up professional writing, Conan Doyle was a doctor. The first of the Sherlock Holmes stories was ‘A Study in Scarlet’ and was published in 1887. The crime story genre was very popular in the 19th century, and many established writers wrote stories of this type. For example, Charles Dickens’ last, unfinished novel was ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood.’ This was a murder mystery and so shows how popular the genre had become.
For any short story to be successful, especially the crime genre, the correct authorial perspective must be chosen. In ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ the perspective is that of Dr Watson, looking back over a previous case. I think that this is effective because the reader is able to relate to Watson, as he is following Sherlock Holmes. Watson also learns of the clues at the same times as the reader, but doesn’t get an explanation.
This creates tension and excitement and so the reader will read on to find out. For example, the reader knew there was a “dummy bell rope,” but it wasn’t until Holmes explained it that we found out its actual use. If the narrative perspective had of been from Sherlock Holmes point of view, there would be no tension as he worked out the clues very quickly. We know the when Holmes saw the bell rope was a dummy, it “instantly gave rise to the suspicion that the rope was there as a bridge for something passing through the hole and coming to the bed.” Another option Conan Doyle could have chosen would be to have an omniscient narrator, who would know everything going on and everyone’s feelings. This, also, would have reduced the tension and atmosphere in the story.
The plot of ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ is that of a typical nineteenth Century crime story. A young woman, Helen Stoner, comes to see Sherlock Holmes, after the strange circumstances surrounding her sister’s death start to repeat themselves. Just before she got married, therefore getting her inheritance, she dies very mysteriously. Miss Stoner is very worried, and she is also set to be married. Holmes and Watson agree to help the young lady. However, before they set off for Stoke Moran, Dr Grimesby Roylott, Miss Stoner’s stepfather, pays them a visit and tries to threaten them into not going.
This only encourages Holmes, who goes to the house, where he finds several clues in the bedrooms. Holmes decides to come back to the house at night and stay in Miss Stoner’s bedroom, to witness the strange events for himself. During the night, a snake crawls through the ventilator between Dr Roylott and Miss Stoner’s rooms. Holmes attacks it and it flees back, where it turns upon its owner, and kills him. As this is a short story, it should only have one main storyline, and this one does. If there was more than one then there would be little time for any development of plot at all. Conan Doyle, in ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ gives enough information to sustain interest, but is also very selective about what is included in it. There are some events in the story that are not directly important to the plot, but create tension and suspense.
The visit of Dr Roylott to Sherlock Holmes’ house is included for this reason. Dr Roylott describes himself as a “dangerous man to fall foul of,” so Holmes wants to get to the house even more quickly, as he fears for the safety of Miss Stoner. This also increases the pace of the story, and makes it more exciting. Conan Doyle uses various things throughout the story to keep the reader’s interest. Dr Grimesby Roylott is an unusual man, who used to live in Calcutta. He went to prison for after ‘he beat his native butler to death.’ When he returned home to England he had various ferocious quarrels, due to his ‘violence of temper approaching to mania.’
Dr Roylott also kept tropical animals, which also makes him an interesting character, and his violent temper is also typical of a nineteenth Century villain. Another factor that creates interest in the story is the amazing skills of deduction possessed by Sherlock Holmes. Watson notices ‘his quick, all-comprehensive glances’ when he first meets Miss Stoner. Holmes then goes on to deduce her exact journey, just from what he has seen. The reader is then anxious to see what he deduces from what Miss Stoner tells him about her circumstances.