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Explore the detective story genre with particular reference to Conan Doyle's stories.Show it's social, cultural and historical contexts.

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Eliyahu Lopez English Literature Coursework Sherlock Holmes Explore the detective story genre with particular reference to Conan Doyle's stories. Show it's social, cultural and historical contexts. Arthur Conan Doyle first started writing detective stories from as early as 1859 in Victorian times. He and many others pioneered a genre of fiction that remains among the most popular today (Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, J.S. Le Fanu). His writing continued till The First World War and so reflects the world of the 19th Century rather then this one. From the rise of large cities in the 1800s new city dwellers started to become fascinated by crime and started to romanticize as well as read about crime. The idea of detection and the figure of the detective that would eventually stand at the centre of the genre were introduced in the early 19th century by a Frenchman, Francois-Eugene Vidocq. When Vidocq's memoirs were published in France in 1828, they were immediately popular and translated into English. Interest in England in "crime stories" blended with a strong, existing genre called the Gothic novel. The Gothic influence is said to account for the dark settings, unfathomable motivations, and preoccupation with brilliant or unexpected solutions in the detective genre. Among English writers, Vidocq most influenced Charles Dickens, who created the first famous detective in English fiction, Inspector Bucket in "Bleak House". In the United States, Edgar Allen Poe read Dickens and Vidocq. In five stories written between 1840 and 1845, Poe laid out the basics of the detective story. In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," Poe introduced his eccentric detective, C. ...read more.


When Mr. Neville St Clair disappears in a house full of opium dealers the police came to the conclusion that he had been murdered and blamed it on a hideous beggar named Hugh Boone who was immediately arrested. Sherlock Holmes then became involved and with a little bit of detecting came to the conclusion that the coat weighed down with coins were all part of a disguise and that the hideous beggar and the missing man were both one and the same person. The structure is a little unusual in this case which can be seen from the fact that the opening of the story starts in Watson's own house whereas normally it starts on Baker Street with people calling on Sherlock Holmes. At the beginning of the story a woman named Kate Whitney bursts into the house seemingly in hysterics and addresses Watson himself in an effort to get help. This is a small case which even Watson can solve by himself, after some detecting the woman's husband is found in an opium den. The story is stronger in atmosphere in its opening sections which describe the sinister ambience of the opium den and the streets leading off it; "Upper Swandan Lane is a vile alley...between a slop shop and a gin shop approached by a steep flight of steps leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave I found the den of which I was in search." The simile comparing the entrance of the opium den to the 'mouth' of a cave is especially eerie because it combines the idea of a mouth swallowing up a victim with the wildness and savagery of an animal's lair. ...read more.


The Gothic atmosphere contributes to the showing of the persecuted victims fear and terror, so that the setting adds as a symbol of the character's state of mind. At the end of the story, Holmes's actions result in the death of Helen's stepfather and he comments; "I can not say that it is likely to weigh on my conscience". This is a good example of sardonic humour that is often present on the stories. The story follows the strict morality that says that justice must be done upon the evildoer even if the justice is handed out through the normal legal methods. In this story as in many others a horror that defies reason is safely beaten by the logic of a rational detective. This brings me to the point that critics have pointed out the irony that Holmes's 'pure logic' is full of careless inaccuracies on Conan Doyle's part. The 'Swamp Adder' does not exist and a snake would not be able to live in an unventilated spot (the safe) as this story requires. Throughout these three stories we see that Conan Doyle strongly believed that crime does not pay and that in the end the evildoer would be punished. Another moral element in the stories is the question 'Does the end justify the means?' This moral element is probably best shown in 'The Speckled Band' where in the end the Holmes stops a murder by killing the murderer though indirectly. One could argue that this was a just punishment for a murderer and that if Dr Roylott hadn't been killed he probably would have carried on in his evil ways. ?? ?? ?? ?? Eliyahu Lopez GCSE Coursework 1 ...read more.

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