Annotated Paragraph

The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the fact that our door had been suddenly dashed open, and that a huge man had framed himself in the aperture. His costume was a peculiar mixture of the professional and of the agricultural, having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters, with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand. So tall was he that his hat actually brushed the cross bar of the doorway, and his breadth seemed to span it across from side to side. A large face seared with a thousand wrinkles burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other of us while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and his high, thin, fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey.

 

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The uniqueness of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing exists in the way he modeled it to suit his subject. The Adventure of the Speckled Band, a Sherlock Holmes mystery, grips a freight of carefully selected words and rhetoric to emphasize characteristics of the society of detection. Details, details, details are essential to an investigation, and, likewise, strewn throughout Doyle’s writing. He handled literary devices, such as metaphor, simile, symbolism, and juxtaposition, and manipulating the delicately chosen word to express a particular connotation, as a means to emphasis, and in this way he underscored the already abundant details with further detail. The detective’s examination of detail is fueled by his desire to reach a conclusion. Through lining his story with subtle foreshadowing of this final truth, Doyle emphasized the investigator’s goal. Most every action Doyle made in his writing was a means to accessing emphasis. Word specifics and syntax, the metaphor, symbolism, foreshadowing – to name a few – are bright instruments with which Doyle composed his sought after tune.

But barely a dramatized metaphor, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote with his eyes – for if he could have, he would have, and, in the most accessible of ways, he did. Saturated with detailed intricacies, Doyle’s writing style paralleled his subject: he wrote in the way detectives see. For the proficient like Sherlock Holmes, even the seemingly most insignificant concrete fact – the bolt in the floor board, the location of a vent – holds the potential to encase the most relevance. In describing just the single face of the huge man, Doyle assigned to it an abundance of verbs in the same way a detective surmises every certain fact or clue for any concealed connotations within it. The “thousands” (emphasized exaggeration!) of wrinkles grilled into the huge man’s face may prove integral to Holmes’ discovery and so he must, and does, analyze them in detail. What do wrinkles represent? How and why are they formed? Doyle noted every observable detail of said wrinkles, “…burned yellow with the sun,” in the way Holmes collected these details like old coins.

Doyle used rhetoric as mediums to detail-emphasis through comparison and seemingly profuse language. The specifics of the man’s “mixed” dress  — respectable “professional” combined with active, perhaps wild, “agricultural” county man — are metaphors accenting his double, hidden life. The active “swinging,” not stagnant and controlled, motion of the huge man’s hunting-crop places a symbolic emphasis on the huge man’s activity, that he has murdered and plans to continue. Too, Doyle compared the “large face” in a simile to “a fierce old bird of prey” to emphasize the pernicious nature of the huge man’s exterior as a reflection of his interior secrets and motives. Just as a bird of prey kills to benefit himself, might the huge man be capable of the same? Has he done so already? Detail leads to inquiry, and inquiry to examination and hypothesis and, for the gurus in the field like Holmes, conclusion.

Doyle separated fact from deduced reason also in the way a detective performs his duty: locating and removing fact, and then from it developing hypothesis. Doyle’s usage of the word “fact” is fundamental to the entirety of Holmes’ investigatory existence. He drew out for readers the distinction between what Holmes actually saw and what he, based on this “seeing,” then concluded. The rather basic example to follow – fact one: the dashed open door, fact two: the huge man’s presence in the door way, hypothesis: the huge man in the door way is responsible for the dashing open of the door – demonstrates this notion through their syntactical progression of terms. Next, the huge man’s costume – fact one: he wears a black-top typical of respectable men of the time, fact two: he wears gaiters for horse riding and carries a hunting-crop, hypothesis: he has the capacity to use that hunting-crop, as a metaphor for barbaric murder, though he might try to hide it beneath a façade of respectable upper-class professionalism.

Similarly, “costume” was a brilliantly chosen word to precede the description of the huge man’s “peculiar” dress. “Costume” was derived from the word “custom,” as in, what the people of that specific time customarily wore. Doyle’s description of the huge man’s attire as “peculiar,” or separate from the norm, clearly states that the mixing of professional and agriculture was anything but that. Selecting “costume” as opposed to “dress” or “clothing” exaggerates the “peculiarity” of this huge man’s look via amusing irony. Additionally, the “framed” image of this huge man in the doorway holds a double meaning. That of a literal framing of oneself within the borders of the posts, as well as the figurative structure of admittance. The syntax of “himself” following this notion of admittance is interesting. In this way Doyle wrote that it was in the huge man himself that expressed his own guilt by following his stepdaughter to to Holmes’ door and threatening the detective.  Also note the usage of “bile” to symbolize anger in the final sentence. Bile is produced by the liver which is believed to malfunction under the stress of anger. Doyle dressed up his description to amplify his point.  The huge man was very, very angry.

In just this paragraph of 141words there are three points of foreshadowing, and I am sure I have missed another few. The active motion of the “hunting-crop swinging in [the huge man’s] hand” connotes his desire to use it, and that he possibly already has. He would like to lay a flat one on Holmes but doesn’t, likewise, he would like to kill his second stepdaughter, but fails to. Mentioned above, the huge man literally framed himself guilty in this image of himself caught in the doorpost, and, lastly, the simile comparing the huge man’s resemblance to a “bird of prey” foreshadows Holmes’ discovery of the man’s involvement with the mysterious death. His resemblance to a bird of prey is barely limited to his physical characteristics.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a writer of great talent. His usage of rhetoric for creative emphasis coagulated to tie the entirety of the story together. The result of all Doyle’s details (those existing within these points of exaggeration) considered is Holmes’ final discovery and solving of the mystery. Read, the elaborate details allow the story’s many readers to participate in the mystery and play detective alongside literature’s finest, though, you’ve been warned, crucial clues are often the easiest to overlook.

 

Wouldn’t you agree?  http://170w.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2011/10/27/sir-arthur-conan-doyle-rhetorical-genius/

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