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Sherlock Holmes

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Comparison of the ways that Conan Doyle in his presentation of Sherlock Holmes conveys aspects of Victorian society In this essay I will be comparing the ways that Conan Doyle in his presentation of Sherlock Holmes conveys aspects of Victorian society, such as detective fiction, Victorian morality, the publication of Darwin's book The Origin of the Species and also the popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I will be comparing the stories; The Red-Headed League, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Speckled Band, Silver Blaze and The Cardboard Box. Detective fiction first emerged in 1841, with the publication of Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue, in which two women were brutally murdered. Dupin, the detective of the story, solved the mystery that had baffled everybody else, including the police. Most people now agree that it was Poe who introduced the elements of a detective story: a brilliant detective and a baffling crime that requires superior intelligence to solve helped along by a doting friend or colleague who chronicles the case. The Sherlock Holmes stories are also written against a backdrop of Victorian moral values and attitudes. The Victorians believed in duty and will, hard work and respect. But in 1859 Victorian religious beliefs were shattered with the publication of Charles Darwin's theory The Origin of the Species. At the time most people believed strongly that God created humans but Darwin's theory argued against that and said that humans had evolved from apes. This bestial quality has strong links into several of the Sherlock Holmes stories. The main structure of the stories is mostly the same. ...read more.


Conan Doyle also presents Sherlock Holmes as an intense, passionate individual who insists on only working with cases that 'tended towards the unusual, even the fantastic'. He is a worker who is completely driven by infatuation towards his work and his cases. This is reinforced in The Speckled Band when he is asked what he would receive as a wage he replied, 'My profession is its reward'. It is clear throughout Conan Doyle's writings that Holmes is a profound soul who possesses an absolutely genuine fascination of somebody who is absolutely driven until he has solved a crime. This sense is further strengthened with the reference to Holmes as a 'predator' and 'hawk-like' who is propelled by his love of the chase. Holmes also shows a unique method of working, he will deliberate almost as if he is asleep before acting. This is shown in both stories. In The Red-Headed League he appears to fall asleep when in fact he is merely thinking deeply of the case of Jabez Wilson; 'I had come to the conclusion that he had dropped asleep....when he suddenly sprang out of his chair with the gesture of a man who had made up his mind'. This strange pattern of behaviour is shown again when they are in the theatre; 'his languid, dreamy eyes were as unlike those of Holmes the sleuth-hound... as it was possible to conceive' and once more in the cab his taciturn manner shows; 'Sherlock Holmes was not very communicative during the long drive'. This side of his character is also shown in The Speckled Band when driving down to Stoke Moran; 'My companion sat in front of the trap...buried in the deepest thought. ...read more.


Straker's 'face was haggard, and... stamped with the print of a recent horror'. Also present in The Speckled Band which is an element of a Gothic story is the occurrence of a cruel, tyrannical male who threatens and harms a woman, which appears in the form of Dr Grimsby Roylott, whom Helen Stoner appears to be considerably afraid of when she tries to hide the marks on her arm; 'you have been cruelly used'. Then there is the setting in a ruined building, Stoke Moran, which seems to be in a considerable state of disrepair; 'the building was of grey, lichen-blotched stone....windows were broken....a picture of ruin'. There is also a sense of mystery and suspense as the question is posed whether or not Dr Roylott killed Helen's sister. Also the fact that Helen Stoner has been effectively forced into living in her sister's room could be seen as a Gothic element, as could the eerie whistle which both the sisters heard in the dead of night. Conan Doyle's literary masterpieces are been enjoyed by thousands for almost a century now and continue to capture the hearts of both young and old. So brilliant and absorbing are these stories that when Sherlock Holmes was 'killed' in The Final Problem fans complained so forcefully that Conan Doyle was compelled to resurrect him again. Holmes fans even refer to the time in between his death and revivification as the 'Great Hiatus'. The Guinness World Records has consistently listed him as the "most portrayed movie character" with over 70 actors playing the part in over 200 films. A rare manuscript of one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's final Sherlock Holmes stories has recently been expected to fetch a whopping �250,000 at auction. Overall there have been 56 short stories and 4 novels, written over a decade. ...read more.

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