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Through a comparison of 'A Case of identity' and 'The Stolen Cigar case' discuss how successful Bret Harte is in parodying Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Introduction

Through a comparison of 'A Case of identity' and 'The Stolen Cigar case' discuss how successful Bret Harte is in parodying Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There are two forms of detective story: there is the 'who dunnit' idea in which gentlemen detectives are called upon in all sorts of impossible situations, but always manage to solve the crime. In this type, the reader has a good idea of who committed the 'crime'; however, the characters in the story don't. The other type of story is a mystery, in which neither reader nor investigators know who is responsible for the crime; together with the characters, the reader too is invited to figure out the sequence of events. In the Sherlock Holmes stories the focus is on the character of the detective himself (Sherlock Holmes) and follows the story of him solving a mystery. Sherlock Holmes (S.H) was a legendary figure as he was the very first fictional detective; his stories were written in the Victorian times by the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The S.H stories have many common features. For example S.H is seen to be very well organised and by the end, his efforts have concluded in solving the mystery/crime. This has made it easier for Bret Harte to parody Conan Doyle's style; he uses many similar features like the same old fashioned language and also in having Sherlock Holmes or Hemlock Jones (as he is called in the parody), portrayed as a very precise, eccentric detective. ...read more.

Middle

He is very confident in himself and states his own opinion as a fact, "there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace". All these and the following points about S.H are what makes the stories so easy to parody: he always has the same features and has the same distinct mannerisms "finger-tips still pressed together, his legs stretched out in front of him, and his gaze directed up to the ceiling". He also has a constant "look of infinite languor in his face" showing he doesn't let any case trouble him. Also he has a meticulous process of deduction involved in his method of investigation: he finds a clue and sits in silent thought; he is always right. He has a certain process of questioning, then observing, then analysing. S.H and Watson seem very close and the impression is given that Sherlock is never out of work. Their relationship however is similar to that of some teacher-pupil relationships, as Watson admires Sherlock while Sherlock looks down on Watson. Not only does he correct Watson's observations; S.H labours the point to make his assistant appear incompetent. For instance when Watson remarks that much of what he's read is "invisible" to him, S.H responds "Not invisible, but unnoticed, Watson. You did not know where to look, and so you missed all that was important." ...read more.

Conclusion

As seen in "A Case of Identity" S.H has meticulous record keeping, Bret Harte ridicules this by showing small glass jars on H.J's shelf containing "Pavement and Road Sweepings" and even "fluff from Omnibus and Road-Car Seats"! H.J's speech and language are also very melodramatic to magnify the fact Sherlock speaks in a formal fashion. In the story, H.J goes to eccentric lengths to try and prove that his partner Watson has stolen his expensive cigar case, when all along it is clear to the reader that it has just been mislaid. He goes as far as to say to Watson "You bartered your honour for it-that stolen cigar case was the purchaser of the sealskin coat". This left Watson stunned. However by the time H.J has finished his long speech about how Watson must have taken it, Watson was left doubting his own sanity, Even though he knew deep down he hadn't stolen the cigar case. When Hemlock realised that it had been in his draw all along he was "vexed" and in shock as he said slowly "I have been mistaken", despite this he still didn't apologise to Watson for accusing him. I think Bret Harte did an effective parody of the Sherlock Holmes stories as they are already over the top to start with, so it must have been difficult to compete with that. I think he achieved a comic affect within his version of the story and was good at enlarging the ridiculousness of it for the humour of the reader. ...read more.

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