Characterization of Sherlock Holmes & the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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Sherlock Holmes is one of the most memorable characters ever created in the annals of English literature. The creator of the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a literary genius. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was from a very well to do family but due to his father’s erratic spending had fallen into troubled times. Therefore Arthur Doyle completed his studies with financial help from his relatives. During his early years as a medical student, he met Dr. Joseph Bell whose keen sense of observation to diagnose his patient’s illness impressed him deeply. He later acknowledges Dr. Bell as being the inspiration behind the creation of the character of Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle was greatly influenced by his mother’s keen interest in the literary works of renowned authors. But a contradiction appears in Doyle’s notion of women as he firmly believed that they should not be allowed to vote. This notion of women was firmly held even by the character of Sherlock Holmes who wanted little to do with women and considered them overly emotional and nothing other than an object of distraction. Sherlock Holmes is quoted as saying, “Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department” (Doyle, 1905) in “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”.
Sherlock Holmes had a very striking appearance as would seem to a casual passerby. He was very tall, excessively lean and had a hawk like nose. He was addicted to his pipe and also when not on a case would indulge in substance abuse like cocaine. He used to remark that he was a brain therefore he did not need to eat as brains do not consume food. The hard times that Doyle had to suffer in his budding years is reflected in many other characters that he scripted in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. Sherlock Holmes had a keen sense of observation and was very good at deductive and inductive reasoning hence his renowned career. He was not very good with emotions and had very little empathy for others feelings. This is notable in the “ Sign of Four” where Holmes deduces the ill fate of Watson’s brother from a watch and apathetically expresses it to Watson much to the others chagrin. Doyle used to suffer similarly while in the company of his mentor, Dr. Bell. Dr. Bell showed little concern about the feelings of his patients while diagnosing their varied illnesses.
Sherlock Holmes’s educational background is a mystery but to many he was the world’s first forensic scientist. According to Richard Safferstein, Ph.D., "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a considerable influence on popularizing scientific crime-detection methods through his fictional character Sherlock Holmes”. Conan Doyle himself graduated from University of Edinburgh as a Doctor of Medicine. Though hampered by financial problems and lack of social connections, Doyle still achieved modest success in the field of medicine. Sherlock Holmes though not educated in any known field of study could still astonish his professors through his vast out-of the-way knowledge. In his book, Samuel Berger (Berger, 1983) explains how forensic science developed through the writings of Conan Doyle and his fictional Character Sherlock Holmes. Berger especially attributes the improved methods of blood identification as emerging from the methods used by Sherlock Holmes in “A Study in Scarlet”.
Though a keen observer and very knowledgeable, Sherlock Holmes was not interested in findings that did not affect him in his daily life. A very shocking discovery made by Holmes’s companion was when he realized that Holmes was ignorant of the Copernican Theory that the earth revolved the sun. Holmes replied impatiently that it would not make any difference to him if the earth had revolved around for example the moon. Holmes though was very talented in the playing of his violin and could play masterpieces without much effort. He also appreciated the Fine Arts and was a patron of Classical Opera. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also had his roots deeply embedded in the Arts as his family was well connected and known in the social circles. Doyle’s father was a man known for his interests in architecture but could never establish himself even though they had very good references. This depressed him and made him an alcoholic, ruining his family’s fortune on worthless projects. Doyle’s characters in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” are all inspired from his family, friends and associates and many of his characters are interesting, historic, talented and renowned. But the ones who touch your heart are the ones that have gone through hard times and have lived though oppression like him.
Sherlock Holmes was a wanderer and a lost individual as far as establishing a career was concerned which was very a very uncommon facts he had very good family connections and his own brother was working as an accountant in the British government. It was only through the recommendation of a friend’s father, a Mr. Trevor that Holmes finally decided to become a private detective. The very words, “I don’t know how you manage this, Mr. Holmes, but it seems that all of the detectives of fact and fancy would be children in your hands. That’s your line of life, sir, and you may take the word of a man who has seen something of the world.” spoken by Mr. Trevor should become an epiphany for Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life is also very confusing as he started with a modest career in his chosen field of medicine but he ended being better known as the writer of books. He will always be remembered more as a literary genius than a Doctor of Medicine.
Sherlock Holmes was a drifter and not very focused when it came to his daily routine. He had peculiar habits and traits that could drive anyone crazy. It was only Watson who having known him for such a considerable time and indebted to him in many ways, especially for his marriage to a woman whom he had met during one of Holmes’s renowned cases, was able to tolerate his idiosyncrasies. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle though a brilliant writer was himself not focused about his profession as is very evident from the way he abruptly ended the life of Sherlock Holmes in
“The final problem”, as he was bored of writing anymore of this character. Thus the adventure which began in 1886 ended quite fatally for Sherlock Holmes in 1893. Due to the overwhelming protests against Sherlock Holmes’s death, Doyle had to bring him back to life eventually. It is interesting to note that Sherlock Holmes never showed any affection for any woman except for a Ms. Irene Adler who had outwitted him in the “A scandal in Bohemia”. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loved only two women in his entire lifetime and was true to them completely. The character of the woman Irene Adler was pretty dubious but very intelligent, having duped even the great Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes character has no references to spirituality which is very contradictory to Doyle’s own character. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a Jesuit upbringing but he denounced the church and refused any help from them during his practice because he thought it would be hypocritical to his beliefs. But later on after publishing his great works on Sherlock Holmes, he concentrated on writing books of spiritual nature. He also gave lectures on spiritualism even though it had a negative impact on his reputation as the author of a very scientific character like Holmes. Harry Price who had made a name on exposing false mediums commented on the sincerity of Doyle’s beliefs and humorously referred to Doyle as being the only uncritical expert on spirituality. Sherlock Holmes though a proponent of science has been the inspiration behind Stephen Kubrick’s spiritual book “Holy Clues: The Gospel according to Sherlock Holmes”. In this surprisingly profound and imaginative book, Kubrick has revealed Holmes to be a spiritual guide. He goes on to depict similarities and comparisons between biblical writing and the detective’s cases.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as his character Sherlock Holmes will both inspire people in ways still unthinkable and let us hope the mystery continues to unfold before us.