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A detailed analysis of The Red-Headed League and The Final Problem, making it clear why Conan Doyle is established as a master the detective story genre

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A detailed analysis of "The Red-Headed League" and "The Final Problem", making it clear why Conan Doyle is established as a master the detective story genre In 1888, "A Study in Scarlet" was published, bringing together the infamous duo of Holmes and Watson - and in the creation of Holmes, earned Conan Doyle his fortune. "Scandal in Bohemia" and the following stories of his characters journey into the world of crime solving appeared in "The Strand" magazine. The 1880s saw a growing market for popular fiction and at a mere sixpence a week, it had anxious people rushing to the stands for literary entertainment, amusement and escapism. The double act of Holmes and Watson is very effective in the short stories by Conan Doyle. Holmes is often described in the short stories with extended imagery, often like creatures and monsters. "His head was sunk upon his breast, and he looked from my point of view like a strange, lank bird, with dull grey plumage and a black top-knot." This imagery helps to reinforce the idea that his "sharp and piercing" eyes give the impression that he is very alert. Holmes is also described as having a "tall, gaunt figure" with "slick black hair" and "hawk-like" yet "austere" facial features. He is portrayed as being a blunt and impatient man. At the beginning of "The Red-Headed League" after Watson's initial "intrusion", he pulls Watson "abruptly" into the room and he is "anxious" for Mr. ...read more.


At this point, you can see how Conan Doyle has created the tension for the reader and how this will affect their enjoyment of the concluding pages. "The Final Problem" has a very different theme. As soon as the first paragraph has been read you can sense the feeling of desolation as Watson writes with a "heavy heart" and speaks of the "singular gifts" by which Holmes was "distinguished". The whole story has a disheartening ambience. This is reinforced by the surprise and very uncharacteristic entrance of Holmes. He acts very unusually and Watson seems confused. Holmes use of euphemisms is unanticipated, as he is usually a very blunt and straightforward man. "'Yes, I have been using myself up rather too freely'" He also uses heroic understatement here for effect. You can also detect the use of present participles - as soon as Holmes' presence is felt, he starts "flinging the shutters together" and persists in bolting them "securely". The word "bolted" has a very aggressive sound and therefore helps to visualise Holmes' urgency and distressed nature. Their brief and minimal exchange is particularly dramatic. "'You are afraid of something?' I asked. 'Well, I am.' 'Of what?' 'Of air-guns.'" The tension and mood is built up in simple yet effective ways. Although the reader knows from the opening paragraphs that Holmes' demise is near, it remains a shocking conclusion. Holmes asks Watson if he would be "unconventional" when it comes to his departure. ...read more.


In the letter, Holmes mentions that Moriarty is "awaiting my convenience for the final discussion". The "final discussion" is their confrontation and the world "final" shows the full seriousness of the event. After Watson reads Holmes letter, he tells the reader of how the two men "ended", and that the evidence Holmes collected had completely "exposed their organisation". However, the happy feelings are short-lived as Watson goes on to speak of his best friend. "him whom I shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known" This shows us how much respect Watson has for Holmes; he regards him as the "best" man he has ever known. Conan Doyle gives authenticity to his Sherlock Holmes stories by adding 'factual' information to the text. For example, in "The Final Problem", Watson speaks of the "three accounts" of the story of Holmes' death. The "Journal de Geneve" on "May 6th, 1981" and "Reuter's dispatch" in the English papers on "May 7th" both are "extremely condensed" versions of the true story. When Watson first sees Holmes walk into his "consulting-room", it is on "the evening of the 24th of April". These little factual details - although not offering a great deal individually - collectively make the story more realistic and appealing. Arthur Conan Doyle has written four novels and fifty-six short stories that comprise the entire Sherlock Holmes saga. His highly entertaining and enjoyable tales of man's capacity for unpleasantness to his fellow man have made him one of the masters of the detective story genre and therefore one of the highest-selling authors of the 19th Century. Gary Smith 10H English Coursework ...read more.

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