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. These are all set between 1883 and 1890. A most archetypal feature of detective fiction is the place of a sidekick to accompany the more prominent detective character.
In Poe’s Dupin mysteries it was an anonymous subsidiary details the workings of the more glamorous Dupin. In Doyle’s Holmes stories the inferior associate void is filled by Dr. John Watson, Doyle decided upon giving the typical sidekick more of a character than most detective sidekicks had received before this stage. Watson, unlike other previous sidekicks, seems somehow instrumental in assisting Holmes in his cases without actually making any conclusions himself.
His assistance seems to be more his positive effect on Holmes and his investigations rather than Watson’s own criminal knowledge. Evidence from the Sherlock Holmes short stories provides proof of Watson’s lack of directly helpful input, The Adventure of the Speckled Band; “‘You see it Watson? ‘ he yelled, ‘You see it? ‘ But I saw nothing”. Obviously Watson is not a razor sharp crime solver, this leads to the conclusion that other aspects of his character make him a worthwhile cohort for Holmes.
In the terms of the author, Doyle, Watson is an incredibly useful feature in his narratives as he is a great outlet for Holmes’ own queries and conclusions in plausible dialogue for the audience, rather than hearing Holmes’ theories from a less exciting thought process where the end is already determined by one character. Holmes’ theory voicing, to Watson, is common in the Sherlock short stories, here are just two examples from The Man with the Twisted Lip; “Now, I’ll state clearly and concisely to you, Watson, and maybe you may see a spark where all is dark to me” and “‘I think I have the key of the affair now'” said he …
“‘In the bathroom,'” As seen, the clues are given to Watson by Holmes, at the same time as the audience receives them, but are not fully explained as to leave that exciting need to discover the answers for yourself. In addition to being Homes’ confidante Watson is also his close friend as words of affection such as “This is my intimate friend and associate, Dr Watson” and “My dear Watson” have became, teamed with the word elementary, somewhat of a popular catchphrase throughout the Sherlock Holmes’ adventures.
This friendship gives an amiable atmosphere in the investigations even though the subject matter being dealt with is often quite dour. This is an important factor so that the audience are not left feeling dejected. Watson, in broad terms, is an intelligent respectable gentleman of the time with a comfortably upper class life with an esteemed position as a doctor however Watson does not seem contented by this and seems consistently to be seeking a more exciting diversion accompanying Holmes.
This attribute of escaping the mundane existence that he possesses is shared by the reader. Another argument is that Watson represents the audience which is why he is fitting narrator and friendly character. The monotony Watson feels about his profession is shown in this caption “My practice is never very absorbing”. This explains why Watson has the drive to supplement Holmes’ investigations; it also shows an adventurous side to Watson’s character.
It also becomes apparent later in the sequence of stories that Watson has completed his typically “perfect” life by adding his wife to the equation, however this does not appear to quench his dissatisfaction with his life as, in “The Man with the Twisted Lip”, he still succumbs to the temptation that Holmes’ cases produce. 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.