The Speckled Band - Sample Essay
The style of narration in both stories has differences as well as similarities. The main difference is that the narrator in ‘The Speckled Band’, Watson, is personally involved in the story. He looks and watches Holmes at work. He can only explain the tale as he discovers it. This means he is in the same position as the reader. In ‘The Judges House’, the narrator is a godly figure who can see and hear all, but also adds his own feelings and comments about the situation or future from a personal point of view at the scene.
There are a lot of key techniques that both narrators use to build up tension and atmosphere. Firstly, in ‘The Judges House’, the narrator is constantly manipulating the readers’ thoughts and opinions about events that take place. The narrator often lures the reader into a false sense of security. The house is described as “isolated”, “quiet” and “satisfying”. The narrator uses dramatic foreshadowing to make the place sound harmless and peaceful. One moment the narrator uses heavily negative language and vocabulary, the next moment he changes the focus to calmer and positive points. He quickly switches the attention from the “rats and bogies” and “beetles and creaky doors” to the “table spread for super” and the “fire burning on the old hearth”. Malcolmson seems only affected by the positive things, the negative things he dismisses and ignores until the end of the story.
The narrator in ‘The Judges House’ also helps to build up tension by the slow release of clues of details. This gradual revealing of different observations keeps the reader thinking and asking themselves questions as to what is going to happen next. The way the bell rope is described, but not explained makes the reader guess what it is. “The thing that struck him, however, was the rope of the great alarm bell on the roof”. The reader is aware that the rope puzzles Malcolmson.
The narrator also describes things using colours like the “black cap” worn by the Judge, black being a colour associated with death and mourning. He also describes the fire which “threw out a red glow” which is associated with the devil.
In ‘The Speckled Band’, the narration is actually split at one point between Watson and Helen Stoker. Helen tells Holmes and Watson of her current inexplicable observations and events which have taken place in the “ancestral house in Stole Moran”. She tells them all the details of her life of terrible oppression from her stepfather, Dr.Roylott. Everything she tells Watson and Holmes, we hear. This means that Holmes has the same clues to go on as the reader. This makes the final solution even more surprising. Holmes clearly deduces more than Watson, which shows his superiority.
Another thing that highlights Holmes skill and great intelligence is the fact that although Dr.Watson sees and hears exactly the same as Holmes, he is unable to solve the crime. The 2 narrators play a very important part in controlling the speed and drama of the revealing of clues and evidence. These delays and jumps in the storyline help to add tension and delay the point of when the reader believes he knows who done it or how it was done.
At the end of ‘The Speckled Band’, Watson completely reduces the detail of the story. He even states this, saying “It is not necessary that I should prolong a narrative which has already run to too great a length. ” This cuts the story short in a way, without including unnecessary detail. This sums up the story, with a kind of evaluation at the end. This offers Holmes the chance to conclude the story effectively because he shows he is on the moral high ground.
There are many aspects of 19th Century life in both stories which help to build tension and atmosphere. The main fact is the lack of technology which could have been used to aid the victims in each story. The fact that there were no telephones and certainly no 999-type facilities meant people were very vulnerable at home. They were isolated from help, and maybe anyone at all. The whole images of the houses in that time add a strong sense of eeriness and creepiness.
The way that the open fire place and pictures on the walls in the Judges house are portrayed back up this olden day image. “There were some old pictures on the walls, but they were covered with thick dust and dirt”. In both stories, the bell rope is seen as a focal point. In those days, the bells and bells ropes were used to alert surrounding neighbours of danger and panic. This bell ropes hint that danger is ahead. Both stories are written in the same kind of style, where clues are dropped throughout which build up to a dramatic ending. In ‘The Judges House’ tension is built up with many red herrings and dramatic irony throughout. All of this builds up to the conclusion at the end of the story, where the clues are pieced together.