Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
To understand the theme of “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” and to appreciate the levels on which the story operates, one must view it as representative of its genre, the detective story. Like all formula fiction, it is intended by its author to conform to the traditional requirements of that genre.
Formula fiction provides its readers a certain kind of satisfaction: Those familiar with the formula know what to expect, in a general sense, from any story that follows the pattern. In the case of detective fiction, readers may not know how a particular case will be resolved, but they are assured that certain common elements will be present in every such story, and that certain expectations will be raised and satisfied. Most readers seek out detective stories to satisfy their inquisitive nature: People like to have their intellectual faculties challenged. They like to attempt to solve the mystery before the hero does. This they do through careful reading and clever analysis of clues presented by the author, often through a narrator who is aware of the facts but not always able to make the proper deduction. Hence, the “meaning” of most detective stories is usually discoverable on the surface: The denouement gives the reader a sense of completeness, and rereadings simply provide better opportunities to discover carefully disguised clues that make the solution of a particular case more plausible. Readers are not usually challenged to think about...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
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