Compare three of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, commenting on what makes them typical crime stories, and what we learn about the era they were set. In this assignment I am going to compare three of Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories about Sherlock Holmes. The stories I am going to compare are The Speckled Band (1892) The Man with the Twisted Lip (1892) and The Empty House (1905). I am going to note the similarities and differences between the settings, detective techniques, language, characters and plots of the stories. The stories are interesting for many reasons.
One of the reasons is the insight it gives us into life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Another reasons why Conan Doyle's stories are interesting is the relationship between the very clever and observant Sherlock Holmes and the sometimes inferior Dr. John Watson. Although each story has a different mystery and different characters relating to that mystery, there are three characters that progress through most of the stories; they are Holmes, Watson, and Professor Moriarty. The stories, although having different plots, are similar in many ways.
One of the similarities is the fact that Dr. Watson narrates all the stories. Another similarity is the formal language used in the stories; all of the characters are either upper or middle class (unless they are servants) so they speak quite formally. A speak made by one of the characters may sound something like this for example: 'In that case I think it is probable that no further steps may be taken. But if you are found again, then all must come out. I am sure, Mr Holmes, that we are very much indebt to you for having cleared the matter up. I wish I knew how you reached your results'
Another similarity is all of the stories show human flaws, like violence, anger, greed and addiction. Also all of the stories begin in London but progress to somewhere else, whether it is the south of England or Europe for example. In all of the stories Holmes and Watson work together to investigate the mystery, but it is Holmes who uses logic to figure it out. There is a lot of suspense in Conan Doyle's stories. The tension mounts in the stories as Holmes and Watson get closer to discovering 'Whodunit? ' and why. Conan Doyle builds tension by giving descriptions of specific scenes.
In many scenes Holmes describes night time, and the basic fear of the dark and the unknown. We perceive night time to be frightening because we are scared of the unfamiliar sights and noises that we see. Tension also mounts when there is a threat of danger, like in The Speckled Band when Helen Stoner hears the noise her sister heard before her death. Conan Doyle creates suspense in many ways. One way suspense is created is the use of 'red herrings' in the stories like the gypsies in The Speckled Band. Another way suspense is created is the mysteries like in The Empty House how was Ronald Adair killed?
Or what is the speckled band? Sherlock Holmes is as popular today as he was when Conan Doyle wrote the stories. Holmes was so popular that when Conan Doyle tried to kill him off – by making him fall over Reinchenbach Falls in a struggle with Professor Moriarty – to write books that gained him recognition, the public begged him to bring Holmes back. Holmes came back in The Empty House in 1905. The character of Sherlock Holmes is based upon Dr. Joseph Bell, a doctor Conan Doyle met when studying medicine in Edinburgh. Bell made observations about patients' lives that may have been relevant to their treatment.
This gave Conan Doyle the idea of Holmes' power of observation. Holmes is quite harsh. He does not tolerate people who are not quite as clever as he is. Holmes is sometimes thought of as being cruel to Watson because he does not accept that most people do not have such a wide variety of knowledge as he does. Watson is clever enough to be a doctor, so he is not completely clueless but Holmes still treats him like he is inferior to him. Holmes sometimes puts himself above the law. He does not do this to show off, but he thinks that his investigations are above the laws of the land.
In The Speckled Band for example, Holmes is directly responsible for the death of Dr. Grimesby Roylott. Even though Dr. Roylott had killed Julia Stoner and attempted to kill Helen Stoner, Holmes put himself above the law and waited it Helen Stoner's bedroom until the snake came. Holmes sent the snake back to Dr. Roylott's room and consequently Roylott was bitten by the snake and died. After the death of Dr. Roylott Holmes said '… I am no doubt responsible for [his] death, and I cannot say that is likely to weigh heavily upon my conscience. ' Holmes is not afraid to risk his safety to get essential information for his investigations.
In The Man with the Twisted Lip, Holmes sits in the opium den to find information from muttering drug addicts even though the Lascar has 'sworn vengeance' upon him because he has used information discovered there. Another time when Holmes risks his life to solve a mystery is in The Speckled Band, as Holmes and Watson sit and wait in Helen Stoner's bedroom for the snake to come through the vent in the wall. In my opinion Watson is quite a boring character. He seems as though even if everything else changes he will remain the same. When first reading the stories you feel sorry for Watson because of the way Holmes treats him.
Watson isn't quite as quick on the uptake or as clever as Holmes but he is still very clever. The first story I am going to discuss is The Speckled Band. The Speckled Band begins with Helen Stoner coming to see Holmes and Watson in Baker Street in the early hours of the morning. Miss Stoner tells Holmes and Watson about her family and about the death of her twin sister Julia. Miss Stoner says she is hearing the same whistling sound, in the same room, that her sister heard before her death. The second story I am going to discuss is The Man with the Twisted Lip.
This story begins with a woman coming to see Watson and his wife in their home. The woman is Kate Whitney. She says her husband has been gone for two days and she is sure that he is in an opium den on Upper Swandam Lane. Watson agrees to go and get her husband back. When Watson gets to the opium den he is shocked to find Holmes sitting there undercover. Holmes is investigating the mysterious disappearance of Mr Neville Sinclair. Holmes and Watson then ride to Mrs Sinclair's house to tell her of their investigation. The stories The Speckled Band and The Man with the Twisted Lip have many differences.
The obvious difference is the different mysteries and different characters relating to that mystery. Another difference is that in The Man with the Twisted Lip a missing person leads to an apparent murder investigation whereas, in The Speckled Band there is a murder and an attempted murder as well as an accidental death. In The Speckled Band, Holmes and Watson begin investigating the mystery together as they live together in Baker Street, but in The Man with the Twisted Lip Watson begins on a mini-mystery, and then later joins Holmes in the main mystery only when he finds him undercover in the opium den.