The Victorian era from 1837 to 1901 saw many revolutionary accomplishments by the British Empire. The Victorian time was well renowned for its contribution to the British industrial revolution and also many new ideas and ways of thinking. This time period also changed the face of Britain forever as transactions between different nations occurred and culture from all over the world found a place to carry out affairs in Britain. The Victorians did not like this much but as time passed Britain has become a cradle for the diverse cultures from all over the world.
Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish author most acknowledged for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes. By exploring a selection of stories by Arthur Conan Doyle they reveal the Victorian attitudes towards gender, ethnicity and class and these are the topics which will be discussed in the following analysis. Victorian attitudes towards gender were much different than what it is today. Men and women were not equal in terms of status. Men had more manipulation and control over women.
Men and women had different roles and responsibilities, men were more family leaders and women were more domestically involved. The typical Victorian man was respected because they were thought to be intelligent, rational, doing things with reason and cause. In ‘The Speckled Band’, Holmes’ companion Watson discusses his admiration about Holmes: “admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis with which he unravelled the problems which were submitted to him”.
This quote portrays how the Victorian’s saw men as intelligent. In another Sherlock Holmes novel: ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’, Holmes himself acknowledges the manly intelligence that he posses: “I have excellent ears”. This reveals the male attitude of being superior in terms of intelligence. On the other hand women were seen as not intelligent and over emotional. Mrs St. Clair, a character form ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’, has just seen her husband at a window: “Mrs St. Clair had fainted at the sight of blood upon the window”.
The fact that she had “fainted” indicates the Victorian manner and stereotype that all women are over emotional and this also indirectly shows that men are able to handle such situations and women are too weak to do so. Another piece of evidence which verifies the Victorian mentality of over emotional women is a quote from ‘The Speckled Band’: “I have been waiting doe eagerly for you… she cried shaking hands with us warmly. ” Both verbs “cried” and “fainted” reveal that the Victorians saw women as being too emotional about something.
The downfall in terms of characteristics and habits of a Victorian man who was known to be a gentleman is the worst catastrophe in the eyes of the Victorians. The men who indulge in activities such as; gambling, adultery, crime and murder were labelled as “fallen gentlemen”. This only relates to men who are of the aristocracy. In a situation is ‘The Speckled Band’ a quote supports this point: “and the family ruin was eventually completed by a gambler”. Dr Roylott was a man who would be respected for his status as a doctor, instead he turned to gambling, and that made him a fallen gentleman.
A similar situation can be seen in the other novel by Doyle, ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’; Mrs Whitney’s husband has taken up a life of drugs: “her husband’s trouble”. Watson says to her husband when he meets him: “your wife has been waiting this two days for you… you should be ashamed of yourself”. Watson is telling Mr Whitney how he has worried hi wife about his absence, showing his characteristic of a “fallen gentleman”. The Victorian attitude of the though of women doing crime was that it was never possible.
This is because the Victorian men believe that women are too foolish to think of a plan conniving enough to carry out a plan. In ‘The Speckled Band’ this is the case: “and when a clever man turns his brains to crime it is the worst of all”. This is significant because “clever man” was mentioned, however nothing about women doing crime. Significantly this is indicating the point that women will never turn to crime because they do obtain the intelligence to do so. Similarly, in ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’: “as her presence could be no help to them in their investigations”.
This shows that the investigators know that the women are no use to them because she cannot have done anything. These two quotes from two different novels hold similar, if not the same message that women do not have the intelligence to commit crime. Despite the fact that men are viewed as the higher degree in terms of status when compared to women, women still have a category of authority. This category of authority is the maintenance and control over their homes. As in “‘The Speckled Band’, Holmes states: “Now, when young ladies wander about…
At this hour of the morning”, this quote boldly shows what Holmes’ approach to the circumstances that he is in, he is a gentleman and his thought is that women should be at home, not out in the early hours of the morning. A similar scene is present in another Sherlock Holmes novel ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’; in the novel is a quote that determines this point: “my wife has given her notice”. This simply shows how the wives are in control and have high status authority when it is comes to all domestic affairs. Women may have control over household affairs but men will have the responsibility for aiding the finance for their family.