The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes Essay, Research Paper
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The two main characters of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are Dr. John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. They are both complex characters in their own ways, though Holmes is more mysterious. This may be because Watson narrates the stories, so we can see what he thinks and feels. About Holmes we only see what Watson thinks of him, and what he says. It could be difficult to see why two so very different people are friends, but each has his own reason for continuing the association, based on his personality and what benefits he gets out of working with the other.
Dr. Watson is a physician in general, civil practice. He is an old friend and assistant of Holmes’, who shared rooms with Holmes before his marriage. Watson is not as smart as Holmes, but has his own talents, and is much more down-to-earth. He is more practical than his friend, concerned with details of daily life more than with theories and ideas, though those things hold a distant interest for him. He has his own life, but he is loyal to Holmes because he finds Holmes’ eccentricities and mind interesting, and because they have been friends for some time.
Being with Holmes gives him a chance to see the man’s brain, which Watson openly admires, in action, as well. He also gets a chance to test his own mind against the problems they encounter. He seems to enjoy the drama of his friend’s life and work, speaking of Holmes as a fascinating creature, more machine than man at times. Unravelling the mystery of who Holmes is seems to be one of his main motivations, as well as his own desire for adventure, even if he stays much more grounded than his
Sherlock Holmes himself is a detective with an unusual approach and personality. He has mood swings, is addicted to cocaine, plays the violin and makes quick deductions about what he observes that seem like magic to most people. He can be difficult to deal with, going from irritable to playful, and always a few steps ahead of everyone else mentally. It seems that he has trouble keeping himself in check at times, and gets into most trouble when he doesn’t have something to occupy his amazing brain.
His past is somewhat mysterious, and though he is clearly a man of many talents – disguise, deduction, music, boxing, and observation – he can sometimes be ignorant of very basic things. He is also solitary and unemotional, not interested in love, as Watson points out in the first story, A Scandal in Bohemia , saying “All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind.” (Doyle, p. 7).
Holmes is disdainful of society in general, though he usually respects its rules and understands it, if only as an observer. This makes it even more interesting that he seeks to fight crime, and thus protect the society he has little use for. Though he does not always show it, he is loyal to Watson, and finds his assistance as an observer and a person to bounce ideas off of useful. He also enjoys having his own chronicler, thinks Watson is a good listener, and remarks a few times, whimsically, that without the doctor he would be lost.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of short stories. These stories are fictional. Each is an account of a case that Sherlock Holmes, alongside Dr. Watson, has worked on. They are mysteries, usually starting with a client coming to see Holmes in his Baker Street rooms, though some have more unusual beginnings, as in The Man With the Twisted Lip where Watson practically stumbles on a case in progress in an attempt to help a patient in his care home from an opium den.
These stories are told by Watson, as he follows Holmes’ deductions and work piece by piece until the mystery is solved. Most of the time, Watson knows no more about what is going on than the reader does, as he carefully reports what he sees and hears, but cannot guess what Holmes is thinking or why he takes certain actions. Each story begins with an introduction to the problem, then an explanation of its elements, then describes how Holmes goes about solving it. Usually they end with Holmes explaining each step in his methods to Watson. Though they are mysteries, not all the stories involve a crime.
Many of the cases are about unusual events or people, such as the second one in the book, The Red-Headed League , about a man who gets tricked by a plot to distract him while work to break into a bank is undertaken. Another, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle , begins with a lost hat and Christmas goose and becomes a search for a jewel thief. Holmes is most interested by such uncommon crimes. There are twelve stories included in the book, though the order seems to be somewhat random, so they are only generally in chronological order.
I liked this book because it is interesting to read about how Sherlock Holmes solves problems, and because Watson is there to make sure every step of Holmes’ work is explained. Even though the stories are unusual, they are realistic and clever. The best part of the book is the interaction between Holmes and Watson, however, not necessarily the cases themselves, and the character of Holmes, who is very complex. In some stories the plot seems to wander a little bit, with characters providing more background details than seems necessary, but this helps to make them more believable.
I would recommend this book to someone who enjoys mysteries, or just likes puzzles, but there is a lot to enjoy in it besides the mystery aspect. The dialouge is always interesting because of how differently Holmes and Watson see the world. I think most readers would identify more with Watson but be more curious about Holmes. The writer makes England in the 1800s very vivid, so those interested in historical settings would also like this book.
Another interesting character that appears in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is Helen Stoner, in The Adventure of the Speckled Band. She first appears dressed in black and veiled, in Holmes’ sitting room. She is very distressed, and when Holmes asks her what makes her shiver, assuming it is the cold, she answers, “It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror.” (Doyle, p. 120) She goes on to explain the history of her stepfather, who has turned violent, angry, getting into brawls and engaging in various strange behaviors, and how her twin sister died one night two years before, after talking of hearing odd whistling in the night.
Watson describes her, when she lifts her veil, as being haggard, only around thirty but looking much older with stress and fear. She is startled by Holmes’ ability to deduce things from her appearance, but tells her frightening story carefully, paying attention to details. She is a little melodramatic, though what she has been through is certainly serious, but it fits in with the general tone of the stories. Though she is afraid of him, she attempts to cover up for her stepfather – Holmes notices bruises left by him on her wrist, which she attempts to excuse by saying “He is a hard man, and perhaps he hardly knows his own strength.” (Doyle, p. 124).
Miss Stoner shows herself to be, even in her fear, concerned with etiquette. She is always proper, and speaks precisely, not often straying from her point. She has a good memory for details, and is able to relate exact conversations she had. Watson
and Holmes don’t discuss her much, though it is clear they feel sorry for her predicament, dealing with an abusive and possibly murderous stepfather and having lost her twin sister. Even the often cold Holmes remarks that she has been “cruelly used” when he sees the bruises, and Watson and Holmes agree that it is a sinister situation. When Miss Stoner’s stepfather shows up after she has left, Holmes just puts off his questions, ignoring them, committed to helping the woman.
The story ends with the death of the stepfather, and after that mention of Miss Stoner is left to a quick summary. Watson explains that she was brought to the care of her aunt, indicating that even after the death of her tormentor she did not recover completely. However, despite her terror and panic, she comes across as having strength, so the reader might imagine she eventually picks up the pieces of her life. Helen Stoner is a good example of a character in Adventures, realistic and interesting in a way that has the reader rooting for Holmes’ victory over her problems. Holmes nearly always succeeds in solving his cases, allowing the reader to feel that someone can bring order to a chaotic and sometimes evil society. Good men and rational thinking can win the day.
1. Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Oxford Press, 1998.