He had finished the second drink and was staring Into the glass, frowning. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I’ve got Something to tell you. ‘ ‘What is it, darling? What’s the matter? ‘ (Lamb to the Slaughter 140-Line 4-7) Dahl does not reveal what Patrick tells Mary, but it is left for the reader to guess, after looking at her reaction. Mary does not really pay attention to what Patrick says, “her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all”.
Simple third person narration is used by Dahl when describing Mary’s reaction to Patrick’s shocking news but it enables the reader to understand her feelings, and thoughts at the time.
And he told her. It didn’t take long, four or five minutes at most, and she sat very still through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away from her with each word. This makes the reader feel even more sympathetic towards Mary after all that she had done for him he had betrayed her.
The reader is shown Mary’s feelings in the most clear way as the language is slow and to the point. Mary appears to ignore everything as if she hasn’t heard a word of what he has said and continues to act as normal. Everything was automatic now-down the steps to
the cellar, the light switch, the deep freeze, the hand inside the cabinet taking hold of the first object it met The list of actions and the word “automatic” makes the reader feel that Mary is not in her own control and therefore they feel sorry for her.
The author also uses free indirect speech at this point, “All right then, they would have lamb for supper” which allows the reader to make up their own minds about Mary’s feelings. Mary’s reaction is then shown in a similar way as she murders her husband with a leg of frozen Lamb out of the spur of the moment, something that wasn’t premeditated.
It shows how she didn’t know what she was doing, and as if she was taken over by something else which lead her to kill Patrick. However no sympathy is felt for Patrick because the scene is through Mary’s perspective and the reader feels that he deserved it for the way he had treated her. The narration is controlled very well as the reader doesn’t really notice that Dahl has used first person narration “I’ve killed him. ” Mary is then seen to think about her baby and the reader is sympathetic toward her as they feel that she was really a caring lady and wouldn’t wish to do anything to harm her husband.
It was out of anger and therefore the reader is not as blaming as they would be of Dr Roylott. She thinks about what might happen to the baby if she were to go to prison and asks herself a range of questions. On the other hand, what about the child? What were the laws about murderers with unborn children? Did they kill them both-mother and child? Or did they wait until the tenth month? What did they do? This builds up suspense because the reader is not sure about what Mary is going to do and is even more effective because we can hear the questions that she asks herself.
She thinks about her child and this makes the reader feel understanding towards her. Mary first talks to herself in front of the mirror, preparing and practising what she will say at the grocers. She creates an alibi by going to the grocer’s and she tries and acts very normally. The tension is built as Mary puts on an act, pretending she is unaware of what has happened and calls the police. She talks very normally and shows her anguish. She thinks about the consequences of her actions. When the police arrive, Mary falls into Jack Noonan’s arms and this makes him feel sorry for her.
Mary is very manipulative and she suggests things to the police, which change the direction of their investigation. In contrast Dr Roylott has a violent nature as when his home in Calcutta was burgled he beat his butler to death. This creates the image of a vicious dangerous man who when angry can do anything. Whereas Mary is not physically violent. The first description of Dr Roylott’s character gives the reader a perfect villain however the red-herring of the gypsies in the grounds mean that the reader is not sure of the reason for Julia’s unexpected death.
Dr Roylott has also been in prison, narrowly escaping the death sentence, which means that he is a typical villain. Dr Roylott got into “brawls” with the local people on a regular basis, which meant that he became very unpopular, and there was no real security in the house as Helen explained to Holmes, “he is so cunning that I never know when I am safe from him. ” He also got into court on a number of occasions and he let gypsies stay in the grounds of the house as well as exotic animals such as a cheetah and baboon who he let wander freely about.
“He had no friends at all, save the wandering gypsies. ” His nature was of a perfect villain being a man with a mysterious character and a certain criminal record. His appearance was also rather mysterious, “he was a hug man… face… marked with every evil passion”, he has “bile-shot eyes”. “He hurled the local blacksmith” and he resembled “a fierce old bird of prey” all make the man appear a sinister, menacing figure. The language is also very powerful and words such as hurled, snarled, hoarse roar, bile-shot, evil passion, and prey all add to create the fierce character of Dr Roylott.
The reader is pretty confident that Dr Roylott with a motive for murder is the one who killed Julia but the fact that there is no way anybody could have got into her room is what confuses the reader as well as the gypsies in the grounds. The settings are different in the two stories and this adds to the tension and suspense. The Stoke Moran house is described by an effective simile, “Two curving wings, like the claws of a crab” which makes the house appear a little more typical for the murder.
The house appears forbidding and a dangerous place. This was a common setting in the late 19th century with a dark, dangerous setting. This setting has been used in The hound of the Baskervilles as well as Agatha Christie’s detective fiction and is therefore common as well as typical. The setting of Lamb to the Slaughter is a more cosy, homely and less of a typical setting for a murder. The reader does not expect the murder to take place in that home. The houses during the Victorian times are identical to the one described in Stoke Moran.
The mansion is not very properly looked after, “high roof-tree of a very old mansion” and there are other pieces of evidence that suggest the house is very old and not well looked after, hence an ideal setting for a murder mystery. The house is surrounded by parks and cannot be really seen, as it is desolate. The middle class American home in Lamb to the Slaughter is more of a peaceful place as described in the beginning of the story without anything mysterious or out of place. Both stories are successful in creating suspense and there are various techniques that are used by the two writers to capture the attention of the reader.
In The Speckled Band, from the very beginning, Sir Conan Doyle illustrate Helen’s account with descriptive language and Holmes’ reaction is that he is worried; this has the effect of making the reader concerned as well. Holmes says, “there is a distinct element of danger” and he also asks Watson to take a gun with him. The reader trusts Holmes and when he suggests there is danger the reader feels the same and therefore suspense is built. The first person narration also has a similar effect because the events are recounted, as they are experienced.
Holmes holds back evidence, making the reader desperate to find out his conclusion. Doyle uses the effect of the passing of time to enhance the suspense. The pace slows down during the vigil and there are long, stretched sentences. I could not hear a sound, not even the drawing of a breath, and yet I knew my companion sat open eyed, within a few feet of me, in the same state of nervous tension In which I was myself This implies that Holmes and Watson are both very nervous making the reader feel the same.
The sound of the parish clock is the trick used by Doyle to show the passing of time, which adds to the suspense because the quarters are meant to seem very long. The connectives used also have an immediate effect as the reader is drawn into the story “suddenly”. Doyle also uses action adverbs, “Holmes… sprang… lashed furiously”, and this changes the pace suddenly from slow, as they wait, to fast as Holmes attacks the snake. Holmes is quick and the reader begins to think what happened, did I miss it? Direct speech is used to break the silence as Holmes speaks to Watson in an aggressive tone.
The language is very short and sharp, “you see it, Watson? He yelled. “You see it? ” This builds up suspense by the characters specking very rapidly with each other with a sense of urgency. The reader does not know what “it” is, but he obviously does. Doyle retains the information keeping the reader in suspense. The climax is built up to horror when Dr Roylott dies and the scream is heard. “Most horrible cry”, “hoarse yell of pain and fear” and a “dreadful shriek” give a chilling effect to the reader of Dr Roylott.
However Dr Watson’s view may be biased as he describes the body as a “singular sight”, “chin cocked upwards”. Holmes is aware of the solution and the reader must wait for an explanation. Dahl builds up suspense and tension in Lamb to the Slaughter, because after the murder the reader wants to find out what will happen to Mary and her baby and whether she will be caught. Mary speaks to Jack as a friend in a very polite way and puts on an act to show she is really upset ‘will you do that, Jack. Thank you so much. ‘ “When the sergeant returned the second time, she looked at him with her large, dark, tearful eyes.
” Although we know the murderer, the suspense remains because the reader wants to know what will happen to Mary. Mary becomes agitated as the police search the house and therefore she tries to take the police away from the evidence, lead them in the way she wants. Mary is seen as clever and the reader does not really look at her as a murderer because they feel it was Patrick’s fault and that she is concerned about her child. However at the end of the story this may change because Mary giggles and this makes the reader rather uneasy as if Mary had wanted to kill Patrick on purpose.
They now may look at her in a different way. Dahl seems to now look at the story from another perspective detaching himself from Mary by using her full name. The Speckled Band’ is set in Victorian times. We know this because it uses old -fashioned language, and there are certain pieces of evidence as women wore long dresses and gloves. Words such as “meddler” and “Scotland Yard jack-in-office” show old-fashioned text. We also know this because dog-carts were around in this time. “There is no dog cart which throws up mud in that way”.
You can tell that ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is set in the 1950’s because the language used is modern. In the story there is also a car “tyres on the gravel outside”, and a thermos bucket “Fresh ice in the Thermos Bucket. ” They both show that the story is more modern. In conclusion I feel that both stories capture the attention of the reader and are very good in creating suspense and tension. I personally feel that The Speckled Band is a more typical story because it has the traditional male detective, male villain, and a female victim. This means it is more of a realistic idea.
I feel that The Speckled Band is a more typical murder mystery with a mysterious old mansion as the setting and the villain is caught, however a certain element of variety in Lamb to the Slaughter also attracts readers. The Speckled Band really held my attention especially through the narrator Dr Watson because the story is seen at a greater and depth. Holmes reveals at the end that he was indirectly responsible for Dr Roylott’s death although he cannot bring himself to regret it. A good murder mystery must have a very accurate structure and I feel a more typical one works more effectively.
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