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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, is legendary. In one of his classic escapades, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, Doyle frames the brilliance of his hero in an exotic tale of mystery and intrigue by using several devices familiar to the detective genre; particularly in regard to his characters…
The Speckled Band has a unique dimension in several ways, but contains some key character elements important to any detective novel. In choosing to examine three aspects of his characters; villain, victim, and hero, we can observe the particularities of the genre.
Doyle's villain, Roylott, is simply hideous. The homicidal stepfather of two has returned from the tropics of India to his ramshackle family home. Although he is a doctor, he has not established a practice in the area. We are told that his neighbors were initially overjoyed to see a member of the family return to the ancestral estate, but Roylott refuses to make friends. Making things worse, is his penchant for violence. His involvement in various brawls has caused him to be a terror to the village people, who view him as a man of immense strength and complete rage (Doyle, 1892, p. 180).
Within the path of this wretch, quite predictably in terms of genre characterization, come two helpless girls to serve as the victims of his attention. Helen and Julia Stoner embody the archetypal qualities of good detective-story victims. They are vulnerable and alone against this man with whom they must live. They have no pleasure in their lives and are almost Cinderella-esque in terms of their isolation and forced labor. Their one relief is that Roylott occasionally allows them to see their aunt for brief visits. ...
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