Themes in The Adventure of the Speckled Band

The Exotic: Dr. Roylott’s past in India is an important thread throughout the story. The exotic realm of India is often associated with a kind of wickedness. Not only are the creatures Dr. Roylott imports from India dangerous, the region is considered partially responsible for his violent temperament. As Helen remarks, Dr. Roylott’s “violence of temper approaching to mania has been... intensified by his long residence in the tropics.”

Greed: Dr. Roylott’s basic motive is greed. The central tension in his psychological world is between his responsibilities to his family and his own greed. His late wife left behind an annual allowance to be partially allotted to each daughter upon her marriage. Dr. Roylott’s greed eclipses his role as stepfather, spurring his malevolent actions.

Themes Examples in The Adventure of the Speckled Band:

The Adventure of the Speckled Band 1

"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 Adventure of the Speckled Band)

Throughout “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” Doyle weaves a theme of the exotic as sinister. Specifically, there is a sense that the British colony of India—which would have loomed large in the mind’s of Doyle’s Victorian readership—is associated with a certain kind of wickedness, or at least wildness. The serpent itself embodies the subcontinent while being freighted with all of the sinister connotations of the snake. This idea of India as a place that inculcates wickedness is bolstered by Dr. Roylott himself. When he is first introduced, Ms. Stoner says, “violence of temper approaching to mania has been... intensified by his long residence in the tropics.” The historical backdrop of British colonialism is impossible to ignore, particularly because it contributes so directly to the macabre nature of the story.