The Adventure of the Speckled Band
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The story The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Conan Doyle begins with Helen Stoner, the female protagonist visiting Detective Sherlock Holmes to discuss about her sister Julia’s mysterious death prior to her marriage. As a result, Helen is worried for her own safety since her marriage is forthcoming. She then recounts the “peculiar” events that happened to Julia, including her shrieking about a “speckled band” before she dies. After listening, Holmes decides to investigate this case with his partner Watson. While they are preparing to depart, Dr. Roylott, Helen’s stepfather, tracks Helen down and confronts Holmes. He tells Holmes to not “meddle” with their “family affairs.”
When they got to Stoke Moran, Helen’s home, Holmes examines Julia’s room, where the murder took place and Helen is currently living in. He also inspects Dr. Roylott’s room, and finds unusual aspects about both rooms. From that, Holmes predicts how the Julia’s murder is executed; yet he does not tell anyone.
After the investigation, Watson and Holmes stays at a nearby in, while Helen stays in her bedroom. She signals to them when she hears Dr. Roylott enter his room, and they all wait in her room. Suddenly, they hear a whistle and discern something slithering down the bell-rope. Holmes immediately hits the bell-rope with his cane, and they hear a horrible cry next door right after. When they enter Dr. Roylott’s room, it is then revealed that the “speckled band” is actually a snake, and it has killed Dr. Roylott.
The main theme of the story is Good vs Evil. Holmes symbolizes the good side and Dr. Roylott represents the evil side. Dr. Roylott is portrayed as an evil person since he is the “terror of the village” and “trace[s]” Helen to Holmes’ house. He also murders Julia to maintain his own wealth, which shows how greedy he is. Additionally, he treats Holmes with hostility, and calls him “the meddler” and “the busybody”. He then threatens him and warns him to “keep … out of my grip” after bending a “steel poker” “into a curve”. Even the description of Dr. Roylott’s appearance suggests that he is evil, as his face is “marked with every evil passion.” This metaphor explicitly uses the word evil to describe him.
In contrast, Holmes is shown to be a good person as he decides to help Helen Stoner despite her untimely arrival and the lack of payment. That is because he solves cases to help people, and not for money or any personal gain.
Greed is another theme in the story. Dr. Roylotts is shown to be a greedy person as he ignores all his moral values just to maintain his wealth. He would go as far as killing his own stepdaughters. On the other hand, Holmes is shown to be selfless and solves Helen’s case for her without requiring any payment whatsoever.
Sherlock Holmes is the protagonist of the story. He is the observant, quick-witted and logical detective who is also portrayed as the ‘hero’ of the story. As a reader, we are able to tell that Holmes is very observant as he is able to tell that Helen Stoner ‘came in by train this morning’, being able to tell this just by noticing her appearance and what she has in hands, suggesting that he can see things that others can’t. At the end of the story, it is once again stated that he is observant since he guessed what was coming in advance, and was actually correct, therefore he knew what he had to do to attack the ‘speckled band’ as he said ‘I heard the creature hiss as I have no doubt you did also, and I instantly lit the light and attacked it’.
While Helen Stoner told them what happened, Holmes ‘had been leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed’, conveying that he is a good listener and pays his full attention on this case. He is portrayed as a good listener again, near the end of the story, where he claims that he ‘had come to these conclusions before I had entered his room’, suggesting that he is able to imagine what the room is like just by Stoner describing it, and predicting the cause of the incident possibly because of his past experiences.
Dr Roylott is Helen and Julia’s stepfather, and is known as the villain of the story. He is thoroughly described as an unusual man. Stoner provides the readers with a fearful description of Dr. Roylott’s change in behaviour. After the mother’s death, he becomes depressed and shuts himself out of the world and then soon became indifferent to others ‘until at last he became the terror of the village, and the folks would fly at his approach, for he is a man of immense strength, and absolutely uncontrollable in his anger.’ This imagery suggests that he has an impression as an unapproachable person, similar to that of a monster. The fact that he ‘has a passion for Indian animals’ verifies that he is a monster (How so? Point needs to clarified further). His unpleasant behaviour hints that Roylott may have relations to the death of the sister and may resort to do dangerous acts, which may seem intimidating to the readers, suggesting that the antagonist in this story is very strong. Thus, suspense is built up as the readers become worried that he might be the killer.
When he appears in the home of Dr. Watson and Holmes, he is given an impression that he is a bad person that had ‘a large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun’. This imagery suggests that the sight of him is frightening which reflects the concept of his unusual behaviour. His face seemed to be ‘mark with every evil passion’ and that it showed ‘resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey’. This hints that he is somewhat like an experienced killer, always eyeing on his prey. This creates a bad impression of Dr. Roylott. Dr. Watson then gave a commentary due to Dr. Roylott’s sly appearance, that he was ‘more cunning that Holmes himself.’ This portrays Dr. Roylott as a very dangerous person and he is not a weak antagonist. This causes distress and the worry that Holmes is unable to defeat this villain, which is threatening to the readers.
Doctor Watson is Holmes’ partner who investigates cases with him, and is often known to look up to Holmes. This is evident when he claims that he ‘had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his professional investigations’, showing his admiration of Holmes and following him around because he idolises him, similar to the men worshipping Tanya in Twenty-six men and a girl. More admiration is shown when Watson exclaims that he will ‘by no means’ ‘averse to this trip’, conveying that he follows Holmes almost everywhere, regardless of how dangerous it is.
Watson is described as less superior and experienced than Holmes when in the detective industry as he has a simpler mind when he asked, ‘What becomes, then, of these nocturnal whistles, and what of the very peculiar words of the dying woman? I cannot think’. This point is re-iterated later when Watson tells Holmes that ‘You have evidently seen more in these rooms than was visible to me’, suggesting that Watson just sees the rooms in Stoke Moran as normal rooms. On another note, he didn’t even sense the danger of this incident until Holmes said so, hinting that Watson is fairly ignorant to some details, contrasting to Holmes who has his full attention on every single detail.