The Adventure of the Speckled Band: Themes

Good Versus Evil/ Generosity Versus Avarice

Sherlock Holmes represents the good force in combat against the evil Dr. Roylott.  Explicit in-text contrasts in the story detail their polar qualities.  While Holmes tells Helen Stoner that his “profession is its own reward” and that she need not worry about paying him, that she is “at liberty to defray whatever expenses [he] may be put to . . . at the time which suits [her] best,” Dr. Roylott murders one stepdaughter, Helen’s twin sister Julia, and then attempts to murder his second, Helen, just to avoid allocating to them a portion of their mother’s wealth which she bequeathed to Dr. Roylott at the time of her death.  Holmes’ altruism is motivated by generosity, whereas Dr. Roylott’s maliciousness is motivated entirely by sheer avarice.


Wickedness comes back to bite you in the butt — or, in this case, face.  The very snake that killed Julia, and nearly did the same to Helen, ends up turning on its master, Dr. Roylott, biting and killing him instead.  The snake even crawls through the same vent between the bedrooms before executing its victim.


Holmes gladly assumes Helen Stoner’s case even though she is currently unable to pay him for his services.  He insists that Helen acknowledge that her stepfather is abusive toward her and “pushe[s] back the frill of black lace which fringed the hand that lay upon [Miss Stoner’s] knees . . . [to reveal f]ive little livid spots, the marks of four fingers and a thumb . . . printed upon [her] white wrist.”  “You have been cruelly used,” says Holmes.  She is a damsel in distress, and Holmes will save her.


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