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adventure speckled

What conclusion does Holmes draw? On what basis?


Holmes does not reveal his conclusions until the end of the story. This is typical of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Watson observes Holmes in action and overhears most of what Holmes talks about with other characters, but Watson does not know what Holmes is thinking until Holmes is ready to tell him. Arthur Conan Doyle was very much influenced by the so-called tales of ratiocination of Edgar Allan Poe. Doyle observed that Poe typically explained his protagonist's thinking after the event. This technique can be seen in "The Purloined Letter," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Gold Bug." Too much explanation at the beginning of a story or somewhere in the middle of the story can be boring. The reader wants to know what happened. Explanations tend to be monologues, and monologues tend to be tedious. Doyle's stories, such as "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," always contain the element of adventure. Readers are interested in action and in meeting unusual characters. They are less interested in a detective's thought processes. Dr. Roylott in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" certainly is an unusual character.

In "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," Holmes explains his conclusion to Watson after Dr. Roylott is dead and the case is all wrapped up.

"My attention was speedily drawn, as I have already remarked to you, to this ventilator, and to the bell-rope which hung down to the bed. The discovery that this was a dummy, and that the bed was clamped to the floor, instantly gave rise to the suspicion that the rope was there as a bridge for something passing through the hole and coming to the bed. The idea of a snake instantly occurred to me, and when I coupled it with my knowledge that the doctor was furnished with a supply of creatures from India, I felt that I was probably on the right track. The idea of using a form of poison which could not possibly be discovered by any chemical test was just such a one as would occur to a clever and ruthless man who had had an Eastern training. The rapidity with which such a poison would take effect would also, from his point of view, be an advantage."

This is probably the first time the word "snake" is used in the story. The author used the words "speckled band" in the title and throughout the tale because the word "snake" would give the whole plot away. Julia refers to a "speckled band" when she is dying in Helen's arms. She probably actually saw the snake retreating up the bell-rope but was already delirious and talking incoherently. 

Once Holmes concluded that Dr. Roylott was trying to kill Julia with the same poisonous snake he had used to kill her sister, it was just a matter of waiting in the dark in Helen's room for the snake to appear. Holmes assumed that Dr. Roylott would proceed immediately with his plan to kill Helen, even in spite of the fact that Roylott knew she had consulted a detective--or perhaps even because she had consulted a detective. Roylott may believe that he had better dispose of her quickly because she was getting suspicious and might either move out of the house or get someone to protect her. Time is of the essence because Helen is getting married very soon. She might, in fact, decide to get married without any delay so that she could move out of Stoke Moran and have a husband to protect her. So Holmes expected Roylott to use his snake that very night, even though it would have been prudent for Roylott to wait for at least a few nights until Helen got over her fright. Roylott probably did not expect Holmes to get involved with the case because Helen had no money to pay the detective's fee. But Watson explains in this story, as he does in other stories, that Holmes took cases on a pro bono basis if they interested him.

...working as he did rather for the love of his art than for the acquirement of wealth, he refused to associate himself with any investigation which did not tend towards the unusual, and even the fantastic. 


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