Character Analysis in The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes is a private detective in Victorian London. As Doyle depicts him, Holmes is a genius capable of seeing the subtlest of clues and synthesizing them into elaborate theories and solutions. Holmes is also remarkably eccentric and prone to bouts of isolation, habitual vices, and sharp verbal declarations. Holmes proudly adheres to cold, deductive logic and distrusts human emotions, which he finds difficult to understand. Holmes is one of the most popular characters in English fiction as well as literature’s quintessential detective.

John Watson: John Watson Holmes’s best friend and assistant, as well as the narrator of the stories. He is a physician by training and veteran of the Second Anglo-Afghan war. Watson is intelligent and perceptive but lacks Holmes’s deductive genius. As narrator, Watson picks up many of the clues of a case and presents them to the reader, but does not reach for solutions. Watson is more of a gentleman than Holmes, possessing far greater social abilities.

Helen Stoner: Helen Stoner is a young woman who solicits Sherlock Holmes’s services at the start of “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” Helen explains that two years prior, on the eve of her twin sister’s wedding, her sister was mysteriously killed. Helen lives with her stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, whom she suspects was involved in the murder. In the time since Helen’s recent betrothment, she has begun to hear strange noises in the manor.

Dr. Grimesby Roylott: Dr. Grimesby Roylott is a medical doctor who lived and worked for many years in the British colony of India. He now runs Stoke Moran, the broken-down estate of his once-wealthy family. Dr. Roylott is given to violent rages and is rumored to have killed his butler. As a former resident of India, Dr. Roylott collects exotic species of Indian animals including cheetahs and baboons.

Character Analysis Examples in The Adventure of the Speckled Band:

The Adventure of the Speckled Band 9

"“No, but I fancy that I may have deduced a little more. I imagine that you saw all that I did.”..."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

As is standard in the Sherlock Holmes stories, Watson serves as the reader’s eyes and ears. Doyle shows us all of the details of the case that Watson sees. Thus, we are invited to share in Watson’s sense of wonder when Holmes draws a solution from very same pool of details available to us.

"before he roused himself from his reverie...."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

Holmes likely solves the mystery in this moment of “reverie.” This pattern occurs in many Sherlock Holmes stories: Holmes pieces together a solution to the case before the story’s climax. In each story’s denouement, Holmes is already prepared with a lucid explanation. Holmes’s ability to crack the case before Watson and—in most cases—the reader is a large part of his mystique and appeal as a literary character.

"“Yes, sir, that be the house of Dr. Grimesby Roylott,” remarked the driver...."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

Notice the way Doyle uses improper, vernacular grammar here to indicate the driver’s lower social standing. This gives the world of the story some verisimilitude and shows Holmes’s and Watson’s comparatively high level of refinement and education.

"It was a perfect day, with a bright sun and a few fleecy clouds in the heavens...."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

Passages of narrative exposition such as this show us the differences between Watson and Holmes. Holmes is perpetually focused on the details of the case, and he is depicted in this scene as “buried in thought.” Watson, by contrast, has a taste for simple pleasures, such as the beauty of a country landscape on a bright day. These tastes can only be revealed in his narration, since Doyle keeps the dialogues with Holmes case-oriented.

"And now, Watson, we shall order breakfast,..."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

The mention of breakfast is quite humorous. Its everydayness stands in stark contrast to the bizarre case that has just unfolded. The point is that such excitement is all in a day’s work for Sherlock Holmes.

"“But I have heard that the crocuses promise well,” continued my companion imperturbably...."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

Despite Holmes’s often severe manner, he has sharp wit. Here he sarcastically goads on Roylott for two reasons. First, he does not wish to reveal any case information. Second, he hopes to gain an upper hand on the man. Seeing that Roylott is a fearful, quick-tempered brute, Holmes employs a calm, belittling demeanor to indicate that he is unthreatened.

"Ah yes, I recall the case; it was concerned with an opal tiara. I think it was before your time, Watson...."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

Throughout the Sherlock Holmes stories, Holmes makes reference to at least 80 cases never told in full. The Farintosh case here is just one of them. Conan Doyle uses these untold cases to flesh out Holmes’s world and backstory. These passing references make Holmes seem all the more seasoned.

"The left arm of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven places. The marks are perfectly fresh...."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

Doyle uses these moments of impressive but unimportant deduction at the story’s beginning to introduce both Holmes’s client, and the reader, to Holmes’s intellectual feats. His final solutions are more credible if the reader already understands what he is capable of.

"and in admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis..."   (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)

In the character of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle attempted to create someone guided by pure reason and deduction. Time and again, Holmes expresses his distaste for emotionally driven actions. Doyle based Holmes’s character on his medical school professor, Joseph Bell, whom he studied under at the University of Edinburgh. Doyle admired Bell’s extremely logical methods of treatment. In a letter he sent to Bell in 1892, Doyle wrote, “It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... round the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man.”