Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Thoughts: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
When I read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, I thought, “Nothing really sets Sherlock Holmes apart from other characters I’ve read about before. Sure, he’s kind of a nut, but there are TONS of nuts in classic literature.”
I was wrong.
I realized that little factoid right after I finished reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. The book is a collection of short stories (cases?) all featuring Sherlock Holmes and, of course, Watson. The cases are all very interesting—ranging from incriminating photos of royalty to an engineer’s severed thumb—and you get the feeling that only Sherlock Holmes can possibly solve them.
I always thought Sherlock Holmes was a flat character, a mystery-solving machine with very little personality. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sherlock Holmes is brilliant, arrogant, and, even if he’ll never admit it in a million years, he does have a heart. In The Copper Beeches, for example, one of his clients goes to work as a governess for a strange family. Holmes keeps thinking about her, and I like to think it’s because he’s worried about her, not just because he’s hankering after another case to solve.
Believe it or not, Holmes can also be very funny. His sense of humor comes out in the most unexpected of times. In this scene, for example, Holmes is being threatened by Dr. Grimesby Roylott, and he decides to be a smart ass:
“Ha! You put me off, do you?” said our new visitor, taking a step forward and shaking his hunting-crop. “I know you, you scoundrel! I have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the meddler.”
My friend smiled.
“Holmes, the busybody!”
His smile broadened.
“Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!”
Holmes chuckled heartily. “Your conversation is most entertaining,” said he. “When you go out close the door, for there is a decided draught.”
This book proved a lot of my preconceptions regarding Sherlock Holmes wrong. I always thought he was brutally honest, ready to spill out his thoughts at any moment. It never occurred to me that he could also be brutal but in a completely subtle way. In this scene, Holmes coolly takes his arrogant client a notch down or two:
“A most painful matter to me, as you can most readily imagine, Mr. Holmes. I have been cut to the quick. I understand that you have already managed several delicate cases of this sort, sir, though I presume that they were hardly from the same class of society.”
“No, I am descending.”
“I beg pardon.”
“My last client of the sort was a king.”
Oh, before I forget, I just want to say I loved how Arthur Conan Doyle portrayed female characters, especially Irene Adler (also known as The Woman). The fact that the only person who managed to beat Sherlock Holmes was a woman earned Arthur Conan Doyle a ton of cool points in my book. Let me just say that Irene Adler beat Sherlock Holmes not because of her looks or her hot body. She managed to beat him by using her BRAINS. Now, that’s someone the females of today can look up to.
I loved The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. When I finished it, I immediately started reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (the next book in the canon if you go by publishing date), because I could not get enough of the brilliant detective.
I am definitely turning into a Sherlockian or whatever you call it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch—two actors I would not hesitate to fangirl over any day.