The primary device that Doyle uses is a combination of melodrama and academic writing. The latter is used in abundance with touches of the former to ensure that the reader is not put off at any point. Furthermore, it ensures a sense of realism which makes the mystery much more intense. Doyle’s academic style can be seen from the very first sentence of the story when he states: “Of all the problems, which have been to my friend Mr Sherlock Holmes for solutionâ€¦” Coupled with academic writing is understatement when he writes, “At the time the circumstances made a deep impression upon me, and the lapse of two years has hardly served to weaken the effect.” Melodrama can be observed from the statement, “ was so strange in its inception and so dramatic in its detailsâ€¦”Order now
Throughout the beginning of the story the credibility of the narrator, Dr Watson, is built up to ensure a relationship of trust between him and the reader. This means that everything he says is instantly believable and this amplifies the mystery and suspense. An example of this is: “My practice had steadily increased, and as I happened to live at no very great distance from Paddington Station, I got a few patients from among the officials.” Here you can see that Doyle is emphasising Watson’s profession. The reader is given the impression that because Watson is a doctor he can be trusted. Furthermore, the reader knows that he’s not going to dramatise the events.
To ensure that the mystery itself is properly described, no detail is left out and this creates vivid images. The horrific details that Doyle puts across are not dampened in any way and this makes the story seem more believable. He goes to great lengths to describe everything so that a full picture can be constructed without leaving anything to the imagination. Whilst this is a fairly aggressive way of treating the reader, it ensures that he or she sees the story in exactly the right way. It also emphasises the feeling of trust for the narrator since he’s sharing so many details. Since the details are so unbelievable in themselves, Doyle ensures that the storyteller, the engineer, tells his story rationally, which ensures its believability. An example of this is the following, rather modest, paragraph spoken by the engineer:
“‘Oh, no; not now. I shall have to tell my tale to the police; but, between ourselves, if it were not for the convincing evidence of this wound of mine, I should be surprised if they believed my statement, for it is a very extraordinary one, and I have not much in the way of proof with which to back it up. And, even if they believe me, the clues which I can give them are so vague that it is a question whether justice will be done.'”
In order to further amplify this image created by Doyle, conversation is short, sharp and factual to make sure that only facts are conveyed to the reader so that he or she can make up his or her own mind about what’s happening. Doyle doesn’t force his opinions on them and this makes it more realistic. An example of this type of conversation is this exchange between Holmes and the engineer:
“‘One horse?’ interjected Holmes.
‘Yes, only one.’
‘Did you observe the colour?’
‘Yes, I saw it by the sidelights when I was stepping into the carriage. It was chestnut.’
‘Tired-looking or fresh?’
‘Oh, fresh and glossy.’
‘Thank you. I am sorry to have interrupted you. Pray continue your most interesting statement.'”
This is another example of the factual nature that the conversations take. The engineer seems to be telling everything he knows and this makes him much more believable.
The very detailed description of the events has another effect. It very gradually builds up the suspense and the reader is allowed to wonder what the mystery could be and what could be so unusual. The engineer’s statement is greatly lengthened as much as possible to ensure that this happens effectively.
The intrigue of this story is supplemented by the odd contrasts between the characters. On the side of the engineer, there is a very respectable professional man, Dr. Watson, who is a stark contrast to the quirky and abnormal private detective, Sherlock Holmes. This quirkiness, that is so unique to Holmes’ character, adds a further level of realism to the story because it’s a twist that ensures the story is not two-dimensional. A flat story, that has no abnormalities or odd occurrences and characters, is a boring story. Holmes’ character ensures that that is not the fate of this story and it gives softens the reader for what oddities are to come towards to end of the book.
As was mentioned previously, the engineer’s statement is lengthened as much as long as possible. It is also riddled with dramatic pauses to build up the suspense even more. A good example of this is the quoted exchange above. It breaks up an otherwise lengthy explanation and increases the suspense by making the reader want to return to the explanation.
Lastly, the character of the Colonel Lysander Stark must be discussed. The name in itself gives a sense of intrigue. The reader is at once put on edge about his demeanour. One is at once reminded of a stereotypical colonel, a cruel harsh person with militaristic cruelty at heart. He is depicted as a model villain. He has a German accent, which was and still is a very common nationality for stereotypical villains of stories such as this. From the very beginning, he is described as emaciated, paranormal and above all inhuman – the image of death. These qualities can be seen from Doyle’s description of Stark:
“â€¦a man rather over the middle size but of an exceeding thinness. I do not think that I have ever seen so thin a man. His whole face sharpened away into nose and chin, and the skin of his cheeks was drawn quite tense over his outstanding bones. Yet this emaciation seemed to be his natural habit, and due to no disease, for his eye was bright, his step brisk, and his bearing assured.”
In conclusion, I will say that using all these devices, Doyle successfully builds up curiosity and hence mystery and intrigue. Using little but heavy description, he is able to build up a powerful image that has the ability to shock the reader into submission. It is, for the most part, instantly believable and this serves the purpose of lulling the reader into a false sense of security. When the whole truth is finally revealed it is ever more vivid and much more successful in entertaining the reader.