We perceive Holmes to be immaculate; being clever, presumptuous, observant, brave, confident and trustworthy. Is this why we revere him so much? Because we wish that we knew someone like him? The character, Sherlock Holmes, is indeed highly over-exaggerated; with his name being Sherlock (which is very uncommon) and with him being able to deduce the wildest, yet correct assumptions on the case. Never the less, although he is too good to be true, characters like Holmes will always be our core inspirations in stories like ‘The Speckled Band’.
‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, however, has a completely different approach. We do not have or feel any compassion towards the main character, Mrs Maloney. I do not believe this is because she is perceived as a typical, everyday person as she is not. For Mrs Maloney brutally killed her husband and quite easily, gave a very convincing alibi. So is Dahl trying to emphasise the fact that crimes like these are very common nowadays? I think this story has a moral.
The moral being: just because we see people like those of ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ everyday, doesn’t mean they are ‘normal’.
Then again, who is to say what is normal? I think what Dahl is trying to highlight that if there are so many crimes being committed in the world today, are people like Mrs Maloney in fact normal? I do not think I would be able to commit such a crime and then cover it up so naturally. Never the less, it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people could as crimes like the one featured in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ aren’t exactly rare.
Perhaps this is why ‘The Speckled Band’ seems more unrealistic, because the murder shown in that story was more calculating and evil. Nothing like that of ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’.
I believe ‘The Speckled Band’ characters are made out to be larger than life because the plot is extremely over-exaggerated. Dr Roylott’s character, for instance, is made to seem dangerous and violent right from the very start. When he intrudes upon Holmes and Watson, the way in which he is described… ‘A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes and the high thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey. ‘ …gives us an ultimately hostile and negative judgement towards him. Dr Roylott then goes on to say “Which of you is Holmes? “.
The way in which this question has been phrased gives a very cold and forceful tone to Dr Roylott. Holmes, however, speaks quietly and politely though perhaps with a little sarcasm in his voice. “My name, sir, but you have the advantage of me. “. Dr Roylott then introduces himself but becomes more and more agitated when Sherlock doesn’t answer his question. ‘I will do nothing of the kind. My stepdaughter has been here. I have traced her. What has she been saying to you? ‘
‘It is a little cold for the time of the year’ said Holmes. ‘What has she been saying to you? ‘ screamed the old man furiously’ He then goes on to insult Holmes with accusing him of meddling and associating him with the official detective force. Holmes, however, finds these remarks amusing, which undoubtedly winds Dr Roylott up even more so. Dr Roylott concludes with a threat which was undeniably provoked by Holmes saying “Your conversation is most entertaining… When you go out close the door, for there is a decided draught”. Before making his exit, Dr Roylott tries to frighten them both by bending a steel poker in half.
He obviously doesn’t succeed as Holmes then picks up the poker and straightens it out once again, admirably proving his superiority and greatness. Even before that incident we already believe him to possess a cruel nature when we are told by Miss Stoner that he beat his butler to death and how he recently assaulted a local blacksmith. Holmes also discovers evidence of Dr Roylott laying violence upon his own stepdaughter. Throughout the story Holmes is depicted as an incredibly ingenious detective. Admired, trusted and highly respected by both his clients and co-workers.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle purposely based his stories on a character like Sherlock Holmes because he knew the general public would be intrigued; seeming as the police force in the 19th century were supposedly corrupt. This gave the public someone to believe in. So why are the detectives in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ made out to be dumb and incompetent? I think Roald Dahl is mocking the present police force. Substantiation of this mockery can be seen in the following quote: ‘Noonan discovered a small patch of congealed blood on the man’s head. He showed it to O’Malley who got up at once and hurried to the phone.
‘ Dahl can almost be accused of being sarcastic towards the police force. In this quote he uses the word ‘discovered’ as if to say the detectives found this tiny source of evidence remarkable as it probably a big issue for them to have found evidence! Perhaps why Holmes seems so fictional is due to the scenes in which he works. While ‘The Speckled Band’ scenes are more derelict and mysterious (great for story telling) ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ scenes are less scary but more homely and familiar. The very first words we read are: ‘The room was warm and clean; the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight.