The Mystery: A woman named Helen Stoner comes to Holmes in dire need of his help to solve her sisters mysterious death. She begins by giving background information about her step-father, with whom they live and is violent and temperamental, then continues to tell Holmes and Watson about her twin sister, who died. The woman goes on to tell Holmes about the night of her sister's death, and that before her sister went to bed, she asked Helen if she ever hears a whistle in the middle of the night. Helen tells her sister that she does not. Shortly after their conversation, Helen gets an odd and scary feeling, as she is a twin and is connected to her sister. Due to this strange feeling and the storm occurring outside, Helen can't sleep; she then hears a scream, and immediately recognizing it as her sister's, rushes out to help her sister. When she reaches her sister's room, her sister is writhing and convulsing, and the only words she can get out are, "oh, my God! Helen! It was the band! The speckled band!" Helen is not able to save her sister, and so in an attempt to understand what happened to her sister, Helen makes observations about the place and time of her sister's death. She tells Holmes that all of the windows were locked with metal shutters, the door was locked from the inside, the walls and floors were sound, and the chimney was barred as well. After making these observations, Helen believes that her sister died from nervous shock. Helen continues to believe this until right after her engagement, she was lying in bed when she hears a low whistle, the same one her sister had been hearing before her death, in the middle of the night. This prompts her to go see Holmes immediately, for she fears for her life.
- Holmes: hired to help Helen solve mystery of sister's death
- Watson: Assists Holmes in solving mystery, narrator of our story
- Helen Stoner: 30 years old, lives with stepfather, has twin sister named Julia, mother died in railway accident 8 years prior, is engaged and marrying soon, will receive part of mother's inheritance when she marries, fears her death is next, hired Holmes to solve case and save her from this fate
- Dr. Roylott: Helen and Julia's stepfather, overprotective, very big man, bad temper, violent, has been to jail for beating a man to death, hid away after their mother's death, owns several exotic animals, wanted the money to himself and did not want his step daughters to marry, sent a snake to kill Julia and attempts to kill Helen, Holmes solves mystery and snake ends up biting and killing Dr. Roylott
- Julia: Helen's twin sister, died mysteriously, died from convulsions, died a day before her wedding, initially heard the low whistle at three in the morning
Helen gives Holmes several clues to start with including: the low whistle at night, a metallic sound, the stump of a match and a matchbox in her sister's hand, information that the walls and floors were sound, the door was locked, and windows secured with metal shutters. All of these clues are given when Helen is explaining what happened to her sister. After Helen visits Holmes and leaves, her stepfather shows up and threatens Holmes that if he gets involved, there will be consequences. This is another clue to Holmes because it shows what type of man Helen is living with, and could potentially help Holmes solve the case. When Helen's stepfather leaves, he reveals to Watson that he has seen Helen and Julia's mother's will. This will states that each girl would get 250 Euro if they marry, which gives their stepfather motive to prevent them from marrying. Holmes and Watson venture off to Waterloo to the home of Helen and her stepfather to inspect their rooms and see what could have entered the room and killed Julia. Holmes is unsuccessful in finding an entrance to Julia or Helen's room, but he does later find the clues that solve the mystery for him (though he doesn't reveal these immediately). At the end of the story, Holmes explains to Watson how he knew it was Dr. Roylett. Holmes knew after inspecting the rooms that the threat could not have come from the window or the door, and so he instantly thought of the ventilator. He also had noticed a rope that led to the bed, and thought of a snake. Then he paired that information with knowing that Dr. Roylett owned animals from India, and therefore knew that the culprit was a snake. Those aren't the only clues though, Holmes was already aware that Dr. Roylett was the murderer. He knew when he inspected his chair and saw that there had been a lot of standing on it, the saucer of milk, rope, and safe answered any other questions, and the metallic clang was from closing the safe. Holmes took this information to turn the snake on Dr. Roylett instead of killing Helen. Holmes is able to send the snake back toward Dr. Roylett in which he dies within 10 seconds.
"The total income, which at the time of the wife’s death was little short of £1100, is now, through the fall in agricultural prices, not more than £750. Each daughter can claim an income of £250, in case of marriage. It is evident, therefore, that if both girls had married, this beauty would have had a mere pittance, while even one of them would cripple him to very serious extent" (pg 6). This quote is important because when first reading this, it is really the first clue from the story that could be a potential motive, and it puts the stepfather in the suspect category. If the stepfather is currently in possession of the money from his dead wife's will, then it is likely he would want to keep that, so the threat of having some or even all of it, was scary to him; proving his likely involvement in Julia's death. Later on, it is revealed that their stepfather was in fact the mastermind behind Julia's death, and Helen's attempted murder because of the money he would lose if they were to marry.
"I can only claim the merit that I instantly reconsidered my position when, however, it became clear to me that whatever danger threatened an occupant of the room could not come either from the window or the door. My attention was speedily drawn, as I have already remarked to you, to this ventilator, and to the bell-rope which hung down to the bed. The discovery that this was a dummy, and that the bed was clamped to the floor, instantly gave rise to the suspicion that the rope was there as a bridge for something passing through the hole and coming to the bed. The idea of a snake instantly occurred to me, and when I coupled it with my knowledge that the doctor was furnished with a supply of creatures from India, I felt that I was probably on the right track" (pg 11). This quote is important because it is the beginning of Holmes' explanation as to how he knew what killed Julia, and who was the mastermind behind. He states that he was misled by insufficient data, but once he knew that there was no way to get into the rooms through window or door, he took another path toward the answer. He was drawn toward the ventilator and the bell-rope, which how the snake entered the room and made it to the bed. He then coupled that with the information of knowing that Dr. Roylett owns exotic animals from India, and he knew that he was heading in the right direction.
Dramatic Irony: this often occurs when the audience knows something that a character does not. This is similar to how Holmes will know certain information or will even have the case solved, but Watson and the other characters are not aware of what he knows. He keeps them to himself, not only from Watson and the others, but from those reading as well. He usually reveals his thought process and what clues gave it away at the end of the story. So in a way he is the audience, and the other characters and readers are those that are unaware of certain information.
Prose: Prose is writing that is in the form of sentences or paragraphs. The entire story is written in prose because it is written in paragraphs, not stanzas or verses.
Foil: a character that works to contrast the main protagonist. In Sherlock Holmes stories and in this one, Watson is the foil to Holmes. Watson is much more ordinary and simple than Holmes, and his main purpose is to contrast Holmes. Watson thinks like your average person, and Holmes does not. So, putting Watson as Holmes' right hand man really shows the differences among Holmes and regular people.
- Helen's mother was killed in a car accident. True or False.
- Dr. Roylett beat a man to death. True or False.
- Helen comes to see Holmes out of recommendation from a friend that Holmes helped in previous years. True or False.
- Julia and Helen are twins. True or False.
- Helen does not know that her sister is in danger the night of her death. True or False.
- Holmes was not able to figure out what caused Julia's death. True or False.
- Julia was killed by a disease. True or False.
- Dr. Roylett came and threatened Holmes. True or False.
- "The speckled band" was an actual band. True or False.
- Dr. Roylett is killed by the same thing as Julia was. True or False.
Paget, Sidney. She raised her veil. 1892. http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/pagets/104.html. Accessed 10. Apr. 2017.