Before I read the Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes I already knew that he was a famous detective, apart from that I knew nothing more . However on further discussions I found out that he wore a hat and smoked a pipe; he lived in London and had an accomplice called Dr Watson who helped him solve crimes. Doyle portrays Holmes image as a man who wears a deerstalker hat and smokes a pipe, which immediately the Victorian and modern readers would think and visualize as a very mysterious detective who is very serious about his work. Further more people enjoy reading detective stories because it is a source of entertainment and leisure.
Detective stories like Sherlock Holmes contain many red-hearings (false clues) which get the readers minds thinking, keep them guessing of what the answer is or what it might mean which further on in the story might completely be erroneous, and at this point, there might be a twist. At this point, I will also refer to the guesses I made whilst reading the three stories “The read-headed League”, “The man with the twisted lip” and “The speckled band”. In the first story, my first guess was that the whole concept of the redheaded league was a fraud to see how many people would sit and copy out from an encyclopaedia.
My guess was wrong however part of it was correct; the redheaded league was a scam which was to attract Mr Wilson out of his shop. “All red-headed men who are sound in body and mind…. Apply in person on Monday at eleven o’clock to Duncan Ross, at the offices of the league, 7 popes court Fleet Street”. As well as this being a scam, this is a red hearing, which misleads the reader from the real clues that may appear later on in the story. In “The speckled band”, I could not figure out how Dr Roylott’s daughter died or what might have killed her. My guess revolved around the matchbox, and the chimney, though not all of it was correct.
As I read on, I made my second guess, which was that it had somewhat to do with the ventilator which opened in from Dr Grimsby Roylott’s room and had a link to what might have killed her. When I finished reading my second guess was accurate. I think the use of the red-hearings is tremendous because the readers are tricked easily into inadequate clues that are exceedingly irrelevant from the crime. Doyle wanted to create an effect upon his readers because although some readers might not see those clues as red hearings. Holmes does because as always Doyle tries to make Holmes look the clever one.
When Doyle first thought of creating a private detective, it was the time of Jack the Ripper, a master criminal who the police were never able to catch and neither was able to solve the sensational case in which he killed women and mainly prostitutes and cut open their bodies. At that time it created an environment of fear because of a killer being on the lose; this lead the public to believe that the police were incompetent of catching Jack the Ripper. That is why Doyle saw it as a good period and opportunity to begin writing the stories of Sherlock Holmes to verify to the public that a fictional detective can do the work the police cannot.
Doyle uses Holmes to criticise the police in “The Red Headed League” Holmes says that police officer Jones is “an absolute imbecile”. Moreover, in “The Man with the twisted lip” Doyle has the following interchange between Inspector Bradsheet and Holmes. “I wish I knew how you reach your results” “I reached this one, by sitting upon five pillows and consuming five ounces of shag” Doyle has Holmes saying this because; the readers know that this is how Holmes found his answer.
However, the police are still incapable of coming to a conclusion like Holmes. Doyle often finishes his stories with a cutting remark by Holmes. In this case, the reader himself will feel superior to the Police. Likewise, Doyle has Holmes showing contempt for the police in “The speckled band” Dr Roylott says to Holmes “Holmes the Scotland Yard Jack in office” Holmes says “Fancy his having the insolence to confound me with the official detective force”.
This clearly shows that Homes also thinks that the police are incompetent, have no imagination whatsoever, and are very incapable of solving crimes. Doyle believed that a successful detective would be good at observation and deduction. Holmes is based on one of Doyle’s medical lecturers at Edinburgh University called Dr Joseph Bell. He would observe and deduce details of his patients from their past and present lives before diagnosing their illnesses .
Holmes uses a lot of observation and deduction in many of his cases for example in “The red-headed league Holmes observes Mr Wilson and deduces that sometime ago in his life he had worked in china. “The fish which you have tattooed immediately above your right fist could have only been done in china”. Also in “The speckled band,” he saw the train ticket in Miss Stoner’s hand from which she had caught the train the very morning. This shows that Holmes is so observant that he notices such small detail that not even an ordinary person would even ever think of noticing, especially the police.
Doyle frequently uses Holmes to demonstrate his power of observation and deduction because this is how the police should start looking at a case by noticing every small detail and looking at things that seem irrelevant from the crime but actually might not be. Moreover, from the story point of view it means that the client will have faith in Holmes. Doyle has the reader view Holmes through the eyes of Watson because if it was always Holmes telling the story the reader would look at the crime from one point of view and before the end would know the answer.
That is why Doyle has Watson as a contrast to Holmes to show a different view. Doctors are one of the most trusted professions as they traditionally have an image of being saviours. I think the reason why Dr. Watson is shown as a doctor is to make the readers trust him and therefore believe in the story. He is shown as less skilful, lacking the reasoning skills compared to Holmes, which makes us trust him more and like him because we are at the same level as well.
As a doctor, he has excellent skills of observing and describing which is an aid for us to recreate every event that happened in the story while we read. Watson has always helped Holmes solves many cases and always had good judgment and views about Holmes. “Holmes the sleuth-hound, Holmes the relentless, knee-witted, ready-handed criminal agent”. Watson is implying that Holmes is very quick, observant and knee on solving cases, and is similar to a hunter who will not rest until he has caught his prey.