Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Speckled Band,” within the book Sherlock Holmes: The Major Stories with Contemporary Critical Essays, is an attention – grabbing locked – room mystery that has elements of chivalry and of great danger, as well as complication and the classic reasonable deductions that all come into play during this enthralling narrative. These are combined with an abundance of unusual circumstances, characters, and clues that eventually lead to the conclusion of the story. The central character, aside from Holmes and Watson of course, is a young woman named Helen Stoner. After the death of her mother she and her twin sister live with their cruel stepfather, Dr. Roylott, who controls and abuses them both physically and emotionally. This essay will examine the various gender related issues, of which there are many, and by using the numerous textual references will reveal the theme of captivity and blatant female oppression, as well as egotistic male dominance and overall unquestionable gender differences that exist in the short story.
Within the grand residence of Stoke Moran, the home of the Stoner/Roylott family, it is important to note that there is a relevant history of captivity. Helen and her sister lived a hard life growing up; after losing their mother they were fundamentally forced to run the household largely by themselves as no servants would stay with them (Doyle 156). This evil stepparent and hardworking type of life bears great resemblance to the classic fairy tale of “Cinderella.” And just like Cinderella these girls need someone to save them from their lives of captivity and their evil step-father. There are various cases within the story that validate this theme of captivity, especially after the death of Helen’s sister Julia. When Helen is first described by Watson as she sits in the living room her facial expression is said to be like that of a hunted animal (Doyle 153). This is... [continues]
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