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Monday, April 2, 2012

Comparing Lamb To The Slaughter with The Speckled Band

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In this essay, I will compare Roald Dahls Lamb to The Slaugter and Sir Arthur Conan Dolyes The Speckled Band. I will show how the language and style used differs between the two short detective stories; I will also show how the social and cultural background of the two authors will have affected their work.


Firstly I will describe to you the background and origins of welsh author, Roald Dahl. He was born in 116 to Norweigen parents in Llandaff, Wales and educated at Repton Boarding School for boys. His harsh treatment in this school lead him to write stories about revenge and cruelty. After deciding to skip university he joined the Shell Oil company, later working for the R.A.F. and then working as an air attach� in Washington, D.C. After publishing The Gremlins and Someone Like You, he was estalished as a serious writer of creepy, morbid fiction.


He wrote nineteen childrens stories, best know for James and the Giant Peach and The BFG. He died in 10.


Secondly, Physician and novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was born on 185 in Edinburgh and educated Stonyhurst Colledge and the university of Edinburgh. He practies medicine in Southsea, England for 8 years and wrote A Study In Scarlet one of sixty stories featuring the master detective Sherlock Holmes. Five years after he started practising medicine, he left to persue his writing career which was immensly sucsessful.


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In 100 he went into the Boer War as a physisian and wrote The Great Boer War which he was knighted for. He was a great believer in the supernatural, especially after his first son was lost in the war.


He dies in Sussex, England in 10.


The background of these two great authors is bound to have effect on the difference of the language and style they both apply.


The father of detective stories is Edgar Allan Poe. He was the first to write stories with detectives. He was american and lived from 180-184. He died from the T.B virus. He mainly wrote from the horror or mystery genre. He also was the first to write modern crime as it will become to be known. He wrote Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Gold Bug and The purloined letter. His detective hero was a man called Du Pain, based off a real person. Conan would have been more influenced by him, because they are closer together in time, but both are writing in genres he started.


The Speckled Band is the longer of the two stories, and is a story about two sisters and their sinister step father. One of the sisters, Julia Stoner, was murdered but the cause of her end is unknown. The other sister Helen seeks the help of renound slueth, Sherlock Holmes. He display immense detective skill, and accepts her plea. He unwravles the mystery of the Speckled Band, Dr. Grimsby Roylott the step father used a ventilation shaft to give passage to a deadly snake. Holmes sends the snake back through the ventilation killing Dr. Roylott and solving the crime.


The other story Lamb to the slaughter is much shorter than the other story, and has a non-mystery structure. It starts with Mary Maloney waiting for her husband to arrive home from work. When he does get home, he is in an irregular mood, but Mary just thinks he is tired. Afterwards he tells her something shocking and dramatic, and she goes into shock and loses touch with sanity. She goes into the freezer and hits her husband with a frozen leg of lamb. After she returns to reality she quickly sets up and alibi for herself by going to the grocery. After she has called the police, and the police cant solve anything, she craftily gives them the leg of lamb, she threw in the over previous. While they are eating the lamb, she is in the other room giggling at her sneaky ways.


In The Speckled Band we are not told who commited the murder from the start as in Lamb To The Slaughter but from information on Roylotts past we are led to believe it was him, and later discover we are right. The crime scene is an early morning, dark old mansion. Giving a sinister and gothic feel to it. We dont actually know a real motive, for Roylotts actions, we could guess as to why, but we wont know the real meaning. The weapon, a (semi) tamed snake, which in the end killed its master.


In the other story, the crime scene is a cosy, warm, house. It would have been about tea time, and really gives a feeling of insecurity if a horrific murder can occur at a time of day like that! The mood of it changed very quickly, from happy kniting, to dead detective. We know who commited the murder right from the start, using a frozen lamb leg. We know roughly why, something Patrick said before he perished gave Mary enough of a push to do that to her, he must have said he was moving out with a 1 year old barmaid or something to have made her do that.


Like most dectective stories, both have a detective, a victim, and a murderer. In The Speckled Band Sherlock Holmes is the dectecive, Julia Stoner the victim, and Dr. Roylet the murderer. In Lamb To The Slaughter the murderer is Mary Maloney, and the victim and detective is her husband Mr. Maloney and another detective who doesnt have a name. . The victim and detective in Lamb To The Slaughter is an unusual combination for this genre. I think that The Speckled Band has a definate mystery inside it, whereas Lamb To The Slaughter does not. The Speckled Band uses the mystery to keep you reading, you try to work out Who done it ? by reading on and receiving clues as you go on, but in Lamb To The Slaughter there is no mystery, you know exactly what is happening as the story goes on.


The period in time the two pieces are set has a dramatic effect on the language used. For example, 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


the station. and phrases like Alas! From this we can see the old-fashioned language used, it is very formal, and the reference to Dog-carts also depicts the time of the setting. In Lamb To The Slaughter the setting is alot more modern, the language is more modern, and the reference to a freezer depicts what time it is set in because freezers are a modern invention.


The structure of the two peices are very different as well, whereas Doyle sets out an entire mystery narrated in the first person, Dahl has written a straight forward tale in the third person, Dahls non-mystery detective story is rather different from usual detective stories, for starters the detective himself is the victim in Dahls story. Doyles peice has it all, clues (Julias last words), red herrings(Gypsies, animals), problems(no obvious way into Helens room), theories(He said he had a theory, but didnt specify what it was), victim(Julia), murderer(Dr. Roylet), weapon(snake), detective(Holmes) and acomplices(Watson). Dahls doesnt have any of the characteristics to make it a mystery, quite simply it is not a mystery / detective because we know what is happening from the start, there is nothing to work out, he keeps you in suspense because there is an air of tension about whether Mary will get away with murder or not. Doyle keeps the readers attention by intriguing them by the mysterious death, Julia simply collapsed, no evidence of poison, puncture marks, anything suspicious, and the most mysterious of all what she said as she died, Oh, my God! Helen! It was the band! The speckled band!, it makes you think and want to read on to get more clues so you can solve the mystery before the super-slueth himself. The crime scenes of both stories, Doyle creates this dark, scary sounding mansion, gothical. This adds the the eerieness of Dr. Roylet by depicting his dwelling as a dark place. Dahl however creates a warm, cozy happy home for Mr and Mrs Malone, and when she kills him in the happy home, it creates unease, as the place you feel warm and safe in, can be brutally disasterous. A simularity I have found is that both murderers are made out to be super-psychos. Roylett had already killed someone before, and when the police ate the very weapon Mary used to kill her husband, she is there in the other room giggling to herself. This is a good effect passing off the killer as evil and dark, but a problem with that is that Mary gains more popularity than Roylett, as she was provoked into murder, by something her husband said, which we can only speckulate as to what. Roylett was definately not provoked, he was driven by simply greed, which makes him the lower murderer; Roylett also gets what is coming to him, he gets killed by his own weapon, the snake, whereas Mary gets away with it as far as we know, I think this comes back to Dahls past, the school he went to was extremely brutal, as was most schools of that era, full of hate and revenge, like Mary gaining revenge on her husband for whateva he did to drive her to kill him. Where Dahl believes in revenge, (Mary killing Mr Malone because of what he said) Doyle believes in justice, (Holmes himself killing the evil Dr. Roylett.), this reflects the upbringing of the two authors, it is in my belief that Dahl suffered more than Roylett in life. Many of Dahls stories have a very dark and gothic tone to them, where Doyles has a sense of justice. I read Mathilda by Dahl and the Chokey and the large brutal nature of headmistress Trunchbull were very dark for childrens stories alone ! and then when Mathilda scares the Trunchbull to leave the school and town, and the tricks she played on her mean parents, it is all about revenge and over coming your problems, which Mathilda did herself, I think reflects the life of Roald very strongly. Anyway, the structure of the two stories in question reverts back to the authors background in my veiw, both quite different.


Another difference is the popularity of the murderers themselves, I mean, I for one felt like I was on Marys side, but loathed Dr. Roylett. I think this is because the murderers motives are different, but Roald still gets you on Marys side, maybe because she received bad news and got revenge, or maybe because she was so crafty and inventive in killing her husband, but if you consider that for a second, Dr. Roylett was quite creative in using a snake as a weapon. I think it definately boils down to the motives.


Overall I think both stories are very enjoyable but I prefer Lamb To The Slaughter for its more morbid and modern content.


I conclude by saying The Speckled Band is much more of typical of the detective genre, because of its gripping mystery and super sleuth detective, possibly being more typical because Doyle was closer to Edgar Poe than Roald.


In the end, they are both great stories.




















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