Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories

After the Climax of the story, the final part of the structure is explained and the reader’s curiosity satisfied as Holmes gives an account of his thinking to Watson. He starts his account by explaining about the gypsies and the mentioning of the band. The ‘band’ that Julia Stoner mentioned was clearly used to explain the appearance of the horrid item, which she had caught a glimpse of, but this threw Holmes entirely off the scent because it was insufficient data. He dismissed the Gypsies because there was no way that they could enter her room, as the doors were locked and the windows barred.

After Holmes states this he starts to explain the rest of the clues. He tells Helen and Watson that when he noticed the bell rope, which was a dummy, the bed bolted to the floor so that it could not be moved and the ventilator, he instantly drew to the conclusion that the rope was used as a bridge for something passing through the hole of the ventilator to get down to the bed. The idea of a snake immediately occurred to Holmes but he decided not to let on about his suspicions. The idea of the snake was made even more possible due to the fact that Dr Roylott had a large supply of creatures from India.

Holmes then thought of the whistle that was heard by both Helen and Julia. This was obviously used to call back the deadly snake before the morning light which shows that the snake was obviously trained. He probably trained it using the saucer of milk found in Roylott’s room. Also after the inspection of Dr Roylott’s chair this showed that he had a habit of standing on it, which of course would be necessary to reach the ventilator. The sight of the safe, the saucer of milk and the loop of whip cord put all doubt out of Holmes’ mind that he could be wrong.

The Metallic clang heard by Miss Stoner was her step-father hastily closing the iron safe upon its terrible occupant, the snake. All of this information also confirmed to Holmes that it was not possible that the gypsies were the culprits behind this dreadful mystery, as the poison from the snake would take effect very rapidly and could not be traced by any test. Therefore it would have to be someone clever with an Eastern training to carry out such a crime. In all the Holmes stories which I have read his character is always contrasted with that of an evil villain. In the ‘Speckled Band’ he pits his wits against Grimesby Roylott.

Their first meeting gives the reader a taste of his character. At their first meeting Dr Roylott slams open then door very brusquely. Roylott is portrayed as a professional man, as he was wearing a black top hat and a long dress coat but he also had an agricultural look due to him wearing high gaiters and carrying a hunting crop. Roylott is described as being extremely tall, so tall in fact that the top of his hat brushed the cross-bar of the doorway as he entered the room. As well as being tall he his obviously a very portly man as his waist spread to each side of the door-frame.

He had a large wrinkly face which was yellow because of the sun. His deep set, blood-shot eyes and thin fleshless nose make him look evil, and gave him the resemblance to an old bird of prey. When Roylott spoke he was far from calm, unlike Holmes who matched everything that was said with a quick witted comment, occasionally giving a chuckle, aggravating Roylott further causing him at one point to shake his hunting-crop at Holmes in frustration. Dr Roylott tries to persuade Holmes that he is indeed a ‘dangerous man to fall foul of’ when he strides over to the fire, seizes the poker and bends it into a curve with his large hands.

He then throws the poker into the fire and leaves the room. Holmes now continues to coolly mock the doctor by grasping the steel poker and with a sudden burst of strength straightens it up again. Conan Doyle also provides his readers with a rich variety of convincing settings. For example, Stoke Moran in the ‘Speckled Band’ is described as being an old house constructed in ‘grey lichen-blotched stone’ with a large central portion accompanied by two large curving wings which are described as a pair of ‘crab claws’. The left hand wing has broken windows which are boarded up, and part of the roof is caved in.

This part of the building is obviously in need of a great deal of repair, it is described as ‘a ruin’. The central portion is described as being a ‘little better’, although one side of the house is ‘comparatively modern’ with blinds in the windows and smoke rising from the chimney, this shows that this was where the family ‘resided’. This is the perfect setting for a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The description of the house adds to the setting, building tension as we find out about the scene of the crime, creating a suspense filled atmosphere. The building is portrayed as being, very old and gives an air of foreboding.

We can therefore feel how Holmes must feel when coming upon this ominous scene. Another interesting setting can be found in ‘The Man With The Twisted Lip’ when Conan Doyle describes the opium den. The den is set between a slop shop and a gin shop. Holmes travels down a flight of steps to enter the dark and dingy pit. There was a flickering oil lamp hung just above the door. The den is a lengthy room with a low roof and drowned in brown opium smoke. The room is terraced with ‘wooden births’. It is described as ‘the forecastle of an emigrant ship’. Through the thick smoke bodies can be seen lying in strange ‘poses’.

People with hunched shoulders and bent knees with their heads thrown back and chins pointed to the only just visible ceiling due to the deep opium smoke. Deep in the shadows little red shadows can be seen glowing bright as the ‘burning poison waxed’ in the bowls of metal pipes. Most people lay silent unless they were quietly murmuring to themselves. At the end of the room was a small ‘brazier’ of burning charcoal with a tall undernourished man sat on a ‘three legged stool’ gazing into the fire and not moving an inch with his hands keeping his head propped up and his elbows rested on his scrawny knees.

This is another perfect setting for a Sherlock Holmes mystery. It is described as a dark smoke filled room making it hard for Holmes to see adding suspense as anything could happen to him in the shady opium den. Bodies are sprawled over the floor and we don’t know whether they are living or just rotting corpses, making the scene chilling and daunting. Finally, in ‘The Red Headed League’ we are provided with a tense description of the atmosphere and tension during the time spent waiting in the bank vault in.

Their wait in the vault lasts for an hour and a quarter. Watson’s limbs stiffen up but he is unable to move because he is so scared. His nerves are worked up to the ‘highest bit of tension’. Watson’s hearing is so ‘acute’ in this part of the story that as well as being able to hear Holmes’ breath he can also hear the ‘distinguishing, deeper, heavier breath of the ‘bulky Jones’ to the ‘thin sighing’ of the bank director’. This informs the reader how quiet and tense this moment in time was for the four people hidden in the bank vault.

Finally, this setting in the bank vault is once again perfect for a Sherlock Holmes mystery because the characters in the story are extremely tense because of the atmosphere but as well as the characters readers can feel the same as no detail is left out and we are therefore provided with vivid images so that they feel like they are sat in the same vault as Sherlock Holmes and his companions. A full picture is constructed without leaving anything to the imagination making the story a lot more exciting. There are a few very important ingredients for a good mystery.

The first ingredient is the structure of the story. Without the correct structure the interest of the reader would be lost, certain information has to be given at important times throughout the story in order to capture the reader’s interest and to build curiosity. The second is suspense. Suspense is needed to get the reader excited, keep them interested and leave them hungry for more. The third is the characters in the story. Without compelling characters the story would be weak. If we do not have feelings for the characters we are not interested in what happens to them.

And last, but not least, is the setting. Without an interesting, detailed setting the reader will not be able to have a sense of the atmosphere. Atmosphere is essential in order for the reader to imagine the same feelings of the characters within the story. I think that Conan Doyle’s writing is exceptional. He writes believable, descriptive stories that intrigue the reader from the very outset. I enjoyed Conan Doyle’s ‘The Speckled Band’, as it was an interesting, intriguing mystery that kept me guessing and wanting to find out the conclusion as soon as possible.

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