Examine Conan Doyle’s “The Speckled Band” and Brian Moon’s ‘Visitors’. Discuss how far they are representatives of the detective genre and how far they reflect the attitudes to crime and punishment of the centuries in which they were written “The Speckled Band” and “Visitors” are two very different stories written in two different times. They were both written for different audiences, and thus the conventions of the genre have been interpreted in different ways over time. My essay will examine how far the stories conform to or diverge from the conventions and how far they relate to the crime situation of their time.
“The Speckled Band” was written by the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is a pre 20th century story involving an unusual plot. A murder has taken place at a stately home and a young lady called Miss Stoner approaches Holmes for an answer. A strange plot twist makes Holmes think about the situation in a different light, but as normal the case is solved as soon as possible.
“Visitors” is a short story written by Brian Moon. It is a very short story compared to “The Speckled Band” but in this time, a lot is achieved. The story is somewhat back to front, with the robber’s gentlemen, and the police louts.
Burglary has been nationalised, and the ‘Property Re-Allocation Technicians’ have visited the home of a young lady. There is no set story line, and the events occur at a rapid pace. The indication of a new genre of novels emerging was in 1842 when a short story, oddly called ‘Who is the murderer? ‘ was released by Edgar Allen Poe. Poe highlighted and isolated the process in which the murder is unravelled – the ‘denouement. ‘ The conventions of the detective were first outlined in the book, and have been developed in further novels. The conventions of the novel are like rules.
They are what the reader expects to be in the book, and when exercised, make the book more enjoyable. If conventions are employed, the book is easier to follow and understand, unlike ‘Visitors’. In Poe’s book the conventions of the detective genre are still sketchy, giving Poe a certain amount of ‘Poetic License’ to mould them. A detective book should include the following. A crime, usually a murder or kidnapping, starts the novel, normally to grip the readers interest in the story. A detective is then introduced, who is a normally a loner, with a rich background.
He normally does his work because he feels that the police force is incompetent and do not do their job properly. A confidant, who is not as bright as the detective is then introduced, he is more talented on the physical side of the investigation than the detective, often to the readers enjoyment. The investigation itself normally involves a red herring or plot twists to throw the detective off the track. Some of these are successful, and confuse the detective (and the reader) further. At the end of the story, the denouement is pronounced, and the solution to the story is revealed.
The books are written in such a way, as to involve the reader and to make him/her think try to discover the answer themselves. The conventions are illustrated in both stories, but are interpreted by the author in different ways, and with different meanings or consequences. The stories illustrate the changes in the justice system in the time between their writing. In the era of Conan Doyle’s story, the police force in the country had just been formed, and was still learning how to deal with problems. In comparison to this, in the age of Brian Moons story, the police force has become near unnecessary.
Burglary has become legalised to combat unemployment, so the government has found that the police are in a somewhat strange position. All they are required for is to take statements, and to verify a burglary has occurred. This means they can recruit people with no credentials. “The Speckled Band” has conformed to the conventions of the detective story with very little divergence. I. e. the writer has looked at the ‘rules’ of the genre and tried to make sure his story sticks to all of them. At first, “The Speckled Band” looks to be diverging from the rules, when the crime is not a murder, but a mystery.
No weapon is found, and the cause of death is unclear. This is the first of the plot twists that we find. We meet the detective, Holmes, at the start of the story, and find that he is indeed, highly intelligent. This is illustrated by some of Watson’s observations of his actions. “following Holmes in his professional investigations… ” and “… admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuition and yet always found on a logical basis” are comments at the beginning of the story. This piece is written as if it were Watson telling the story of Holmes professional triumphs.
Watson is obviously in awe of Holmes and his brains, which leads on to the third convention, the detective’s confidant. Watson is the assistant to Holmes, and in compliance with the genre, he is clever, but not a genius. He is a practical man, and assists Holmes in the more physical side of detective work. “Have your pistol ready in case we should need it” Holmes comments. We (the reader) are constantly finding Holmes explaining things to Watson, and in some cases, Holmes becomes exasperated by Watson’s lack of understanding. “You see it Watson? … But I saw nothing” The police in Holmes’ view, will fail at everything.
He is annoyed that his job is sometimes referred to as having connections with the police. “Fancy him having the insolence to confound me with the official detective force! ” – After Roylotts departure from his office, Holmes illustrates his strength and annoyance at what he has done by bending the poker (previously bent by Roylott) back into its original shape. In other novels by Conan Doyle, Holmes is usually congratulated on solving the case before the police, by the police themselves! Holmes sees the police in a very demeaning light, and assumes any case he chooses to investigate, the police have already failed.