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How typical a villain is Irene Adler in the Sherlock Holmes story: A Scandal in Bohemia?

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Introduction

How typical a villain is Irene Adler in the Sherlock Holmes story: 'A Scandal in Bohemia'? The Sherlock Holmes stories were a series of short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle, a 19th century writer. The stories centred on Sherlock Holmes, a detective, whom solved a variety of crimes using his intelligence and logic. Typically in these stories, the villain that Holmes defeats is male, commonly intelligent and is usually responsible for a serious crime. Doyle writes the endings to the stories in a similar fashion with Holmes outsmarting the villain, solving the crime and consequently resulting in good triumphing over evil and order being restored. In 'A Scandal in Bohemia', Holmes is called upon by the King of Bohemia who asks for Holmes to retrieve a photograph that threatens to jeopardize his reputation. The photograph is of him and Irene Adler, an intelligent, middle class woman whom he once had an affair with. Adler doesn't follow the typical rules of the villains in the Sherlock Holmes stories and gradually becomes a character we admire, as opposed to the King of Bohemia. ...read more.

Middle

Instead Doyle portrays her so that she simply doesn't follow the stereotypes Sherlock and 19th century Victorians assumed about all women. Aside from her distinctive male qualities, Holmes admires Adler's intelligence and the fact that she was able to outsmart him. Not many other villains tend to outsmart Holmes, so this comes as a shock to Holmes. Even more so because she is female. Holmes is portrayed to value intelligence higher than class, which was a major part of Victorian society. Adler is also shown to share these views. An example that she doesn't regard class highly is when she gives Holmes, who is disguised as a poor stable boy at the time, a sovereign. Holmes admires her very highly after this as he says he means to wear it on his watch-chain "in memory of the occasion". This would suggest that this is the point where Doyle starts to change the role of the typical villain from Adler to the King of Bohemia. ...read more.

Conclusion

In most of the Sherlock Holmes stories, if the villain outsmarts Holmes, it is rarely at the end of the story. In Sherlock Holmes stories, order is restored and the villain is caught. Order is restored but Adler isn't caught as she has outsmarted Holmes, which is very uncommon. Doyle may have made this story particularly different to the others as Victorians had a very stereotypical opinion of all women at the time. The character of Adler is a way of Doyle perhaps attempting to change this opinion that many people had. She is depicted as being a strong character with high intelligence, which went against many assumptions people, had about women. Doyle also shows us how unimportant class is in comparison to intelligence and kindness. He shows us how class shouldn't affect how we live, but unfortunately it does. 'A Scandal in Bohemia' has a very different structure, different characters and a different storyline to most of the other Sherlock Holmes stories. Not only is the villain a female, she is also not responsible for a serious crime, is admired by Holmes and is able to outsmart him with order still being restored. ...read more.

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