" The emotional basis of a standard detective story is that murder will out and justice will be done. " (Raymond Chandler celebrated author and pioneer of American detective fiction. 1888-1959) The hero of the detective story be " motivated less by the desire to solve the mystery of a murder than the compelling necessity to right social wrongs. " ( Phillip Durham, University of California) Consider the extent to which each story conforms to and departs from the conventions of crime fiction highlighted in the statements above. Which of the stories do you consider to be most effective
" The emotional basis for a standard detective story is that murder will out and justice will be done. " ( Raymond Chandler, celebrated author and pioneer of American detective fiction. 1888-1959. ). "The hero of the detective story should be motivated less by the desire to solve the mystery of a murder than the compelling necessity to right social wrongs. " ( Phillip Durham, University of California. ) My intention for this essay is to explore the relevance of these Statements by analysing two examples of crime fiction , The Speckled Band and The Test.
The Speckled Band is one of the most famous Sherlock Holmes stories and is written by Arthur Conan Doyle. The Test is a much more modern story and is written by Henry Sleaser. London in the era of Queen Victoria was a fascinating place to live. Flickering gas lamps lit the squalid streets casting eerie shadows. Horse drawn carriages clattered along, carrying wealthy people. Crime was rife in the slums of London, prostitution, drug abuse and murder were common place. There was much poverty and ill health; poor people lived in cramped dirty and squalid conditions.
Smog created by factories weighed heavily on the city, creating a dark, dreary place. At this time an infamous murderer Jack the Ripper, was loose on the streets of London, attacking women. He ruthlessly murdered five prostitutes, often sending body parts to the police to show off his crimes. However, the police couldn't catch him and their methods were seen as inefficient. A number of officers were also publicly exposed as corrupt. Many Victorians had a deep resentment against the police in London, as they didn't seem to be protecting the public. The Speckled Band is at a contrast to the police at that time and shows that Holmes is a hero.
This is because he solves the mystery, restores order and exposes the guilty. The Holmes stories were a winning formula because it established the popularity of the stories as Holmes was doing everything that the police couldn't. This encouraged people to read the stories as it gave them interest in the police world because the police were inefficient. Crime Fiction is a very popular thing and now we are surrounded by real and fictional crime stories for our entertainment. For example on television there are hundreds of crime fiction programs on every month, i. e. Taggart or Midsomer Murders.
As we are exposed to more and more of these stories the writers have to change them to keep our interest. This is done by changing the ending to the story from a cliffhanger to the next with the police finding out the culprit and punishing them. In The Test Vernon Wedge is an attorney and is defending a young boy accused of murder. The drama takes place in a court-room and the ending is uncertain when Wedge is about to do his test but Benjy's father wrecks it. The test is also much less black and white than The Speckled Band as it is at a much quicker pace and everything doesn't go as you would expect it to do unlike The Speckled Band.
Durham's quote suggests that the detective is a hero fighting to uphold justice by protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty. Holmes is motivated by the challenge of the mystery which shows that he is dedicated to helping and protecting the innocent public and punishing the guilty. Holmes is an expert at everything as when examining things he can pick out minor details that nobody else can, also he has a scientific approach to things and when examining things he does like a scientist, for example this quote " Holmes walked slowly up and down the ill trimmed lawn and examining with deep intention..
"Holmes' eccentric behaviour and appearance reflects what people where like at the time and as the story is written for Victorians they would of enjoyed it as the eccentric characters look like the wealthy people of that time. The Speckled Band is narrated by Watson who adores Holmes so the whole story is completely biased and not a single bad word is said about Holmes. Holmes works outside the legal system doing things such as waiting in peoples houses to catch the culprits where as that is a job of the police.
If a 19th century reader was reading the story of The Speckled Band they would have thoroughly and seen Holmes as a hero, but if it was a person of the 21st century it would seem that the Victorian idea of a hero is inhuman and the whole story would seem unrealistic. In The Test Wedge is a prosecution attorney and is the opposite of Holmes and is motivated by less honourable things such as money and a good reputation. Wedge unlike Holmes makes mistakes and knows his limitations, whereas Holmes gets everything correct and doesn't know his limitations as he takes mysteries too far.
He is inadequate and wants to uphold justice so therefore Wedge is an anti-hero. Wedge is also the opposite to Holmes in the way that he is realistic and that we can relate to him. Wedge is also a lot less like the conventional image of a detective hero for example he wouldn't always just defend the innocent he would defend the guilty as well. Chandlers quote suggests that in the best detective stories the mystery is solved: good triumphs over evil: the guilty are punished and order is restored to society.
Most of Chandlers quote is true of any of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Dr Roylott is clearly the villain from the start as the description given of him. He is also characterised as evil. The tension in The Speckled Band is not like a regular "who-Dunn it" but on how he did it. This structure weakens the dramatic impact for a modern reader because in this century all crime fictional books and TV programs are mainly "who-Dunn it" murders so therefore we are used to these and the structure spoils the story for a modern day reader.