Examine the Victorian stories “The Man with the Twisted Lip”, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, and “The Red Room”. Consider the effects that each writer has created and how they add to the plot, setting and atmosphere.
The Victorian era was a time of great change; industrialisation, imperialism, scientific discovery. These changes reflect in the new topics of contemporary literature. In this essay I am going to look at the effect created by Arthur Conan Doyle and H G Wells in three short stories, analysing how this effect has added to the plot, setting and atmosphere.
In order to fully understand the ideas behind these short stories it is detrimental to overcome our ignorance of past culture. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was surrounded by a London of crime. The police force was almost totally ineffective and the idea of a super detective, able to solve every crime was comforting to the populace. John Dean the philosopher once said “People believe what they want to believe.
” It sounds so simple yet in practice it represents a huge part if how the human works.
For example if I were to prank call someone and tell him/her that she had won tickets for a two week holiday in Australia, he/she would believe me because they wanted it to be true. In relation to Sherlock Holmes, I feel the populace of the time were trying to imagine an actual Sherlock Holmes, as a psychological defence against the criminal life of London.
Both of the Sherlock Holmes novels I am looking at (“The adventure of the Speckled Band” and “The Man with the Twisted Lip”) were written circa 1870. This period saw the time of Britain’s most famous criminal; Jack the Ripper.
Jack the Ripper hunted the slums of London, gruesomely taking the live of prostitutes. I think this fear is reflected in “The Man with the Twisted Lip. ” In comparison H G Wells was a different type of author. He was interested in the progressions of Science, which is reflected in his short story “The Red Room”. Wells builds up the excitement using the typical gothic ghost ideology before concluding with Science. Let us begin at the beginning, examining the simplicity but intrigue that the writers add to the title.
There is a famous saying “never judge a book by its cover,” but of course there are times when we all fall foul of this. Therefore it is important for writers to generate intrigue with what the reader will look at. In my three examples, we see that the authors use simplicity to entice the reader to explore. Conan Doyle uses titles almost as a cryptic crossword clue, you read it for the first time and immediately conclude something but after reading the book (finding the answer) you see just how wrong you are.
This concept of “Red Herrings” is a major a part of detective novels, trying to push the reader to the wrong conclusion, before answering the problem with often simple but ingenious methods. In comparison HG Wells creates a title that does not offer thousands of possible paths to take, different conclusions to be drawn but rather a simple title, simple to the extent of being two simple. The readers mind tries to second guess the outcome, which I think is just what HG Wells intended, building the hype of spectral creatures, before bringing the reader back down to earth, with a simple logical concept.
As the title bears the importance of enticing the reader, the entrance has the importance of taking the readers mind to a different world, a world of fiction, bringing the reader to feel himself apart of this story, a silent observer to this adventure. It is therefore the mark of a good writer to bring this fulfilment to the readers mind immediately however in all me examples below I found this to have not been true, opening in different ways. Maybe this punchy introduction is a modern day literacy characteristic, something which wasn’t needed in the 19th century with limited entertainment.
In The Man with the Twisted Lip, Conan Doyle has done this with a difference I have never encountered before – he has opened with a Red Herring. If you didn’t have enough questions unanswered with the title, you mind goes into overdrive to attempt to place the opening event with the rest of the story. In The Adventures of the Speckled Band it doesn’t offer this immediate junction, he introduces the story as we are used to with the literature of Conan Doyle, a recount by Dr. Watson.
The placing of a red herring at the opening of the twisted lip I think was an experiment by Conan Doyle, I might go so far as to say he was making a point. It was around this time that Conan Doyle had attempted to write Sherlock Holmes out of his series, thus ending his illustrious career. However his popularity was such that by Royal Decree of Her Majesty Queen Victoria Sherlock Holmes was set to return. This Red Herring could be a testimony to telling the reader just who was in charge of Sherlock Holmes, coincidence perhaps but maybe a reason for Conan Doyle’s straying from the norm.
The creation of this red herring is not something a find adds to the book, I feel its just a page of dull waffle, it does nothing to interest me the reader, for if it weren’t for Conan Doyle’s acclaim and previous works, I am sure I would have not continued to read the book. The entrance to the Red Room is quite abrupt, using prose as the opening sentence; “I can assure you that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me,” you can also see how Wells immediately begins his theme, in comparison to the slightly more leisurely starts of Conan Doyle.
This I feel is not common among literature however it serves Wells story well for I think he intended to throw you into the deep end if you like, trying to prevent the reader time to reflect, draw conclusions as to why Wells is writing this story, spoiling the shock he wanted at the end. As Conan Doyle begins to move his story, we usually see the tell tale signal of a client Holmes conference, in which Doyle takes the opportunity to express the knowledge of Holmes to his reader and begin his tale.
In the Adventures of the Speckled band there is no exception; Sherlock Holmes “You have come in by train this morning I see. Client: “You know me then? Holmes: “No, but I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm of your left glove. You must have started early, and yet you had a good drive in a dog-cart, along heavy roads before you reached your station. ” This formula used by Conan Doyle is a common structure throughout most of his tales.
It has a simple purpose of generating the aura that surrounds Holmes, the unbeatable crime fighter. In the Man with the Twisted Lip there is a similar meeting between Sherlock Holmes and his new client, Mrs St Clair: Sherlock Holmes: “I perceive also that whoever addressed the envelope had to go and enquire as to the address. ” Mrs St. Clair: “How can you tell that? ” Holmes: “The name, you see, is perfectly black ink, which has dried itself. The rest is of the greyish colour, which shows that blotting paper ahs been used. “
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