Write an extended introduction to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories. Set them in their cultural and literacy context. Prepare a new reader for the differences in use of language. Show, with close reference to the central characters in the three stories you have studied, how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle reveals his own keen intellect as a medial practitioner piecing together diagnostic evidence from a series of small details. Explore the psychology of the relationships which develop between Sherlock Holmes and the people he has dealings with. Explain why the character of Sherlock Holmes as a fictional detective has endured in the public imagination.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation of Sherlock Holmes is one of the most exciting figures in all of English fiction. Doyle’s stories about the eccentric, but brilliant detective and his trustworthy observations were apparently based on one of his teachers at the University of Edinburgh, where he studied medicine. There is evidence of his own medical training at Edinburgh arises from time to time in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories. Sherlock Holmes appeared in a total of 60 stories, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was published between 1887 and 1927. The Sherlock Holmes’ stories were written in the late 1890’s where Queen Victoria was on the throne. The story is set in the Victorian times, where the only types of transport around which people used were the trains drawn horse and carriages.
The stories were set as a serial, published in the ‘Strand magazine’. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle aimed his stories at a working class audience. The magazines containing the stories were sold in London near train stations, and newsagents where people would stop to buy it. People read these magazines for sheer entertainment, whilst they were travelling to work. The mysterious mysteries, would hook the audience to buy the next magazine to find out what happens next. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle uses many fictional devices to convey an impression of suspense and mystery. They are placed throughout the story to ensure that the reader is always guessing as to what happens next. The style of writing and language used to tell the story and present clues to the audience is set in such a style it is invigorating and reels the audience in.
For this piece of coursework I have read three pieces of similar literature; The Speckled Band, The Red Headed League, and The Engineers Thumb. The two main characters of these stories are the infamous Sherlock Holmes and his companion, Dr Watson. Sherlock Holmes is the expert in solving mysteries. On the front page of these stories it says, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” It doesn’t mention Dr Watson. This suggests that Holmes is the main character, and he is the dominate one. Holmes is the one who readers look to, to solve the mystery. Having read the stories myself, I found that Sherlock Holmes is the one with the answers to everything, unlike his acquaintance, Watson, who is a novice at solving crimes.
All the Sherlock Holmes stories are written in first person. The stories are told by Dr Watson. The author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is also a doctor. When Watson describes his clients he describes them with the finest detail. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s medical language comes into the story, by using his character Watson. For example, when Watson introduces Jabez Wilson in The Red Headed League, he describes Wilson as “a very stout, florid-faced, elderly gentleman with fiery red hair”. Watson also states that Wilson has “small fat encircled eyes”. Doctors are trained to pick up on physical appearance, which has come through in the text. The image is very descriptive, which gives the audience more of a life like vision to what the character looks like.
The language is exceedingly formal and polite between Holmes and Watson. From the dialogue in the text, Watson tends to be exaggerative with his formalness towards Holmes. For example, when Watson interrupts Holmes in a conversation, he says “I apologise for the intrusion, forgive me”. When Holmes disturbs Watson by waking him up early in the morning he says, “Very sorry to knock you up Watson.”
The reason for the difference in the formal language spoken between both Holmes and Watson could be to show the audience that Holmes is more superior to Watson, so therefore he needs to show more respect towards him. This could also be because of the hierarchy, if you had a respectable profession, you would be looked upon with respect from the people below you. The formal language spoken in the narrative is spoken differently from the Victorian times to nowadays, back then they were more polite.