Discuss the social and historical context of each text reflected in
The Speckled Ban by Arthur Conan Doyle and Lamb to the Slaughter
by Roald Dahl.
In this essay, I intend to compare and contrast the two short stories
"The Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, and "Lamb to the
Slaughter" by Roald Dahl, picking out techniques used which make it
exactly, or exactly the opposite of a typical detective story/murder
Both "The Speckled Band" and "Lamb to the Slaughter" have ingredients
for a detective story, i.e. they both have a cold murderer who is just
a little mad. On the other hand, they are presented to us very
differently, making one story very formulaic, and making the other
very untypical of the murder mystery genre.
Both Conan-Doyle and Dahl use various techniques to make their stories
more interesting; for example, in Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter" the
story revolves around the character of Mrs Mary Maloney, loving
housewife and psychopathic killer. Normally, many stories concentrate
on the detective or the victim, this story concentrates on the
character of the murderer. This perspective helps with the telling of
the murder, making it more unexpected. The story includes two major
plot twists; the first being the murder itself, made unexpected by
what we have seen of Mary Maloney's character, the second plot twist
is at the end, where the detectives eat the murder weapon.
Conan-Doyle used techniques in writing "The Speckled Band" also. His
story revolves around the character of the detective, Sherlock Holmes.
The story is told as seen through the eyes of his companion, Dr
Watson, providing a good example of writing in the first person.
Unlike Dahl's story, "The Speckled Band" is a classic 'whodunit', and
so, like many 'whodunits' there is suspense.
Although both the stories have some of the typical components of a
detective story, they are presented differently, differing noticeably
in the setting, the characters and of course the plot, as I intend to
show in this essay.
In "The Speckled Band, the setting of the main part of the story is
very formulaic of the murder mystery genre. The story is set in an old
house. Just the look of it could make you think twice about going
inside; after all, 'it could collapse on you any moment', as Dr Watson
The manor of Stoke Moran is the kind of place that you would expect to
be the setting of a murder mystery, the Maloney residence is not. The
setting for the story is a warm 1950's family home, belonging to Mr
and Mrs Patrick Maloney. Dahl starts the story with a short
description of the setting. 'The room was warm and clean, the curtains
drawn, the two table lamps alight, hers and the one by the empty chair
This description is not the typical setting for this type of story,
and definitely nothing like the description of Stoke Moran. This
technique makes the reader feels secure and unaware of what is