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Comparison of Two Detective Stories

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We are surrounded by murder. Sooner or later it just comes into our lives.  The mass media swarm with it, criminal reports feed from it. Killing is strongly associated with mystery, and there is nothing more attractive to a human mind. One may state with conviction that there are as many types of murder as there are killers. Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, prominent authors of detective stories, prove this assertion with their works The Tell-Tale Heart and The Adventure of Abbey Grange.

Two short stories are connected, probably, only by the common plot element – murder. Genre distinction, however, is rather clear and opposite for works under analysis. Though both complying with the length definition of short stories, The Tell-Tale Heart (1843) and The Adventure of Abbey Grange (1904) are very different. The American author Edgar Poe is famous for adding an element of mystery and even horror to his stories, and the one analyzed is a great proof to it. The title itself implies an intrigue, an attractive enigma (though, ironically, it is the key to solving the offence described in the story). The British writer Conan Doyle was also true to his style: he depicted a crime and the world-famous deductive method of its solving. Mystery of the case as a category of something unnatural is absent, which makes the work of the second author an example of a pure detective story. The time difference between two works is not so large to offer some explanations for their dissimilarity Probably, it is national affiliation of the authors and some individual artistic characteristics that provide such a contrast for the analyzed short stories. Thus, writers’ intentions seem to be the factor defining the setting of works.

The length and the number of personages in two stories are also different. Due to a very closed surrounding and a sick atmosphere reflecting the inner world of the narrator, Poe did not need a lot of characters hence space for describing the events and reflections. There is only a murderer with his fevered consciousness, a victim and policemen. Conan Doyle, on the contrary, referred to his typical multi-personage story set with the permanent characters Holmes and Watson and a list of their colleagues and persons involved in the crime. It is a proof that the two stories differ in minor elements too.

As for the plot, it presents the widest stage for distinguishing the unique character of The Tell-Tale Heart and The Adventure of Abbey Grange. The nature of the crime is different in these two stories. In the Poe’s case the motive is practically absent: a wish to kill a person because of an unpleasant sight of his eye offers rather a diagnosis than a logical explanation. The narrator in this mysterious story is led by blind obsession which at first makes him carefully plan the killing, execute it with extraordinary cruelty and does not leave him in peace after the murder. Crime in Conan Doyle’s variant is an impulsive action dictated by a sudden overflow of rage, in such a way, it was not thoroughly elaborated in contrast with the first story. Both of the murderers are afraid to be caught, but if Captain Crocker is revealed after a long investigation, Poe’s protagonist, filled with guilt, confesses himself. The reader is sure that the latter character would be punished, though there is no further reference to it in the work. Conan Doyle’s Captain, however, is let go by the investigators. It breaks all the regulations developed for crime and punishment. Somehow Holmes and Watson, and a reader too, are able to understand and sympathize with the murderer who killed a cruel husband, but it is rather hard to justify the outraging confessed killer who murdered an innocent person. This paradox is what makes the two stories worth comparing and contrasting.

Works of literature are one of the first guides to the world for children. A lot of phenomena and events can be better understood with the help of books. The latter inevitably bear traces of character of their authors, convey their inclinations and peculiarities and present an insight into their way of thinking. Edgar Poe and Conan Doyle managed to address a similar topic in very different ways. Actually, only the murder element is a common feature of both works; as for the rest, one finds contrasting factors only. Differences between the short stories once again emphasize the artistic originality of the authors and make their writing highly appreciated by a lot of generations of readers.

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