Looking at ‘the Speckled band’ and two other stories, comment on the way Conan Doyle develops his central character, Sherlock Holmes as the popular detective, giving him lasting appeal from Victorian times, to the present day. The ‘detective’ genre is intriguing to readers as it keeps them in suspense by telling them clues but never telling them enough to give the story away. Red herrings are also used to ‘throw’ the reader off the plot or to mislead them. The detective genre is usually seen as unique and eccentric.
A British police force didn’t actually begin until 1829 when Robert Peel founded the Metropolitan Police. Before that there were watchmen and constables. In London there were large areas that were only inhabited by criminals. Many criminals that were arrested never reached prison and burglary was a daily occurrence. Police officers walked around with lanterns and sticks, which weren’t very useful. William Sherlock Scott Holmes was ‘born’ on 6th January 1854 and for more than a century his name has been known throughout the world and not only for his original and unforgettable name, but his appearance too.
He is described as having hawk like features, with a thin narrow face framed by dark hair and heavy brows over piercing eyes. Outdoor wear consisted of a suit of the period, cloak/cape, deerstalker hat, walking cane and his beloved pipe. His usual indoor clothes when on a case consisted of a smoking jacket/dressing gown and again, his pipe. He would usually be seated across the room in a heavy cloud of smoke puffing away at his pipe and he also had occasional lines of cocaine available to stimulate his analytical detective thinking.
Some sources say that he was also an accomplished violinist. Sherlock Holmes resembled in many ways Dr. Joseph Bell, one of his creator Arthur Conan Doyle’s teachers at the medical school of Edinburgh university. Doyle was 17 when he first met Dr. Joseph Bell who was then 39. The doctor left an unforgettable impression on the student because he was a master of observation, logic, deduction and diagnosis. All these qualities were later to be found in the character of Sherlock Holmes.
Much later, Conan Doyle described Joseph Bell as a ‘thin, wiry man, with a high nosed acute face, penetrating grey eyes and angular shoulders’. He also said that ‘Dr. Bell would sit in his receiving room with a face like a Red Indian and diagnose people as they entered and before they had even opened their mouths, he would tell them details of their past life and would hardly make a mistake. ‘ Dr. Watson is Holmes’ assistant and follows him from place to place, describing to the audience the sequence of events as they happen.
Through Watson’s eyes the audience is given a glimpse into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Watson is amazed by the investigative powers of Holmes, and in turn, the audience is then amazed. Only 4 of the 56 short stories are not seen through Watson’s eyes, these are ‘The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb. ‘ and ‘Colonel Warburton’s Madness’ which are third person narrations and Holmes himself narrates the other 2, ‘The Adventure of the Lions Mane. ‘ and ‘ The Adventure of the blanched Soldier. ‘
I think that Conan Doyle has handled Holmes and Watson’s relationship well because he wrote the characters in such a way that he manages to convince the reader that they are close friends and he uses little techniques to indicate the depth of their friendship. The main features that illustrate the quality of their friendship is that Watson puts up with Holmes’ arrogance, rudeness and strange behaviour and the fact that Holmes, who seems to be rather cold and unemotional, allows Watson to be his friend. I also think that Holmes is as good as his reputation says he is.
Conan Doyle went through the trouble of devising skilful techniques and practices for Holmes instead of just making everybody else in the stories seem stupid, as most of the writers did. In the plot of ‘The Blue Carbuncle’, which is third on the list of favourite stories of Sherlock Holmes readers, we see the great power of deduction and analysis used by Holmes. The plot centres on the pursuit of a Christmas Goose in which is hidden the Blue Carbuncle, a gem stolen from the Countess of Morcar’s hotel room at the Hotel Cosmopolitan.