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Watson as a Narrator for a Victorian and Modern Audience

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Watson as a Narrator for a Victorian and Modern Audience Sherlock Holmes is the fictitious creation of the great author Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle. Doyle originated from Edinburgh, Scotland which is where he studied medicine and also is thought to have received his inspiration for the Holmes detective character; this inspiration came in the form of his professor Dr. Joseph Bell who was a master at observation, logic, deduction, and diagnosis. Edinburgh University is also where he met other future greats of literature James Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson. Before Sherlock Holmes the detective genre was pioneered by other seemingly omniscient crime solvers Edgar Allan Poe's "Inspector Dupin" and Charles Dickens' "Sergeant Cuff" and "Inspector Bucket". All these characters ostensibly had an influence on the nature of Holmes, especially Dupin. All detective novels follow similar rules which include the need for one dominant detective. This throws the question of the importance or need of Watson in the stories; however another vital factor in a successful detective story is that the reader is presented with clues and questions not answers, until the end, which makes having Holmes as a narrator preposterous as his superior criminal knowledge is always presented with the essential information before Watson, his sidekick narrator, or the audience understands. To assess the suitability of Watson's narration, for both Victorian and modern audiences, the following examples of Sherlock Holmes adventures have been studied: The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Man with the Twisted Lip and The Mystery of The Red-Headed League. ...read more.


A feature that is constantly appealing to a majority audience is his apparent concern for the people affected by an atrocity, Watson is consistently a benevolent and considerate conversationalist with the friends and family of the, suspected, victim. An example of his compassion is "I soothed and comforted her with such words as I could find". Admiration is another one of Watson's specialities as he is very appreciative of Holmes' blatant brilliance. This is evident in most of the short stories, here are a couple of cases in point "You reasoned it out beautifully", paired with, "I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes" the last quote also supports the point that Watson would much prefer to follow Holmes on his quests than attend his humdrum surgery. Watson's admiration is a technique used by Doyle to augment the appreciation and wonder felt towards Holmes by the reader. First person reporting is a technique used by many authors, including Doyle to involve the reader in a more engaging way which allows the reader into the world of the story rather than the feeling of looking in from the outside, that third person, past tense writing invokes. In Sherlock Holmes, first person is used to include the reader in the hunt for truth and the answers to the mystery. In an abstract manner Doyle uses Watson to represent the reader in terms of resemblance of attributes; for instance both the reader and Watson are both ignorant of many important intricacies of the case so that they both rely on Holmes to decipher the details for them. ...read more.


Watson teamed with Holmes gives them this along with a descriptive and arguably a thrilling story. In conclusion my belief is that, yes, Watson is a better suited narrator for a Victorian audience rather than a modern audience, this being because of the chronologically social relevance that would supply greater interest for a Victorian reader. However disagreement is found with the statement that Watson is an "inadequate" narrator for twenty-first century reader as the stories still raise a lot of interesting issues and remain a thrilling read due to the exciting adventures Holmes embarks upon. An objection modern readers have is that the stories are formulaic and therefore tiresome however for the Victorian audience this was an essential feature to bring a sense of security into their generally uncertain lives. There is no doubt that the Sherlock Holmes stories are written for a Victorian audience however this does not exclude modern readers from finding the same overall enjoyment from the stories. The fact is that certain features may not be relevant to a modern reader's interests or experiences in a modern life. A plus point is that because of the impression made, upon the stories, by Victorian life that Sherlock Holmes is a useful research tool for that time period. Additionally it is not a question of Watson being unsuitable for a modern audience but instead it is an issue of the crime stories themselves being relevant and therefore enjoyable for a modern audience. ...read more.

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