Lamb To The Slaughter & The Speckled Band


St. Patrick\'s Comprehensive



I am going to compare the following two short stories; "Lamb To the
Slaughter" by Roald Dahl and "The Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
I will investigate these stories separately before comparing them.
The Speckled Band, written by the infamous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and
involves his two most famous creations: Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson (Watson is a Doctor of the medical sense) it is story of murder, although this is not instantly apparent. The story is written in a first person view and is set as a sort of memoir by Watson (As is the other books) and it is set in the April of 1883, and begins in 21B
Baker Street in Greater London. Watson tells us he is only bringing the case to light because the person who had sworn him to secrecy recently passed away. It revolves around the untimely death of Helen Stoker at her family home, her sister reports the events to Holmes in hope of finding some sort of explanation

I get the impression Holmes and Watson are close because of the opening
quote by Watson;

"In glancing over my notes of the seventy odd cases in which I have during
the last eight years studied the methods of my friend Sherlock Holmes."


The use of the "My Friend" tells me that they are not only close in their
work, but also enjoy each others company socially, and this is further
backed up by the way they address each other, keeping a "professional
friendship" e.g.: when Holmes is telling Watson he is apprehensive about him
being there, as his life may be at risk, and Watson replies

"Can I be of assistance?"

Holmes replies;

"Your presence may be invaluable"

Watson then says that he will definitely accompany him. To me this is a not
only a gesture by Holmes to spare Watson from harm, but is also a show of
their friendship. Watson knows he could be harmed, but chooses to go as he
wishes to assist Holmes. They have not known each other for that long a period of time, as Holmes later refers to


“…a case that was before your time”


This indicates that they started of as two professionals, but soon developed the friendship they have today. The whole setting for the story is the mysterious death of Julia Stoker, the mystery around her death is what drives her sister Helen to go and seek Holmes’ help. Miss Stoker visits Holmes and Watson and pours out every detail of her life and of her sisters last movements to an eager Holmes, who deduces (Although we are not aware of it at this time) that there is only one suspect – Dr Grimsby Roylott, the “mild mannered” step father of the two sisters. A brief encounter with the man in question is all that is needed to confirm Holmes’ suspicions;


“What has she been saying to you?” Screamed the old man furiously.


“I know you, you scoundrel! I have heard of you before. You are Holmes the meddler, Holmes the busybody, Holmes the Scotland Yard jack-in-office”





At this point I did not think Dr Roylott was the prime suspect, when reading books or watching films I tend to avoid Litman’s Theory of “The most obvious answer is usually correct” I thought it was far too obvious that the murderer would be revealed at such and early stage. I later find out that it is not finding the killer that is the motive of the story, it is proving he is the killer. Although I realised that Roylott did have several not so ludicrous reasons to kill his stepdaughter:


§ Julia’s mother, who was considerably well off, had bequeathed her daughters not an entirely mediocre sum of money per year after they were married. This would decrease the amount he received. This then made Dr Roylott jealous.


§ One of the people whom he relied on to keep the house clean etc. was about to be taken away, and now he also has a motive for murdering Helen Stoker, as she is too engaged.


Although the motive is not completely backed up in the story, I believe this to be the true reason, it could have been that he did not