Sherlock Holmes stories

The following sample essay on: “Sherlock Holmes stories”.The essay will examine how much the Sherlock Holmes stories can tell us about Victorian times.

What do the Sherlock Holmes stories tell us about Victorian Britain?  It will provide an overview of what Victorian Britain was like, as depicted by three Sherlock Holmes stories: The Cardboard Box, The Man with the Twisted Lip and The Speckled Beard. They were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was so popular and well respected for the writing of these books he was knighted for it.

These stories were written during the 1880s to the early 1900s during Queen Victoria’s reign.

The Sherlock Holmes stories fall under the detective genre which means there will be a mysterious crime, a charismatic investigator, the process of deduction and the revealing of the culprit and the motive behind it. The Victorians respected their class very highly and thought that whatever class you were born into was the class you should stay in.

The vast majority of people lived in extreme poverty – around 70% of people were working class, 20% middle class and a mere 10% upper class.

The Sherlock Homes stories appealed to a lot of people, but particularly those in the higher class, because they often depicted upper class people where something had gone wrong or they had committed a crime and not lived up to the expectations of their class. This gave a secret element of thrill to those in higher society. The Man with the Twisted Lip would appeal to the Victorians as it delineated a higher class person who had another life as a professional beggar.

Get quality help now

Proficient in: Arthur Conan Doyle

5 (339)

“ KarrieWrites did such a phenomenal job on this assignment! He completed it prior to its deadline and was thorough and informative. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

This quote “Isa Whitney, brother of the late Elias Whitney, D. D., principal of the theological college of St. George’s was much addicted to opium. ” This tells us that although he was high class and well respected by his peers he was an opium addict, so he had a darker side to him, which appealed, because many Victorians behind their high class had a craving for the gothic. This identified that the story is about a higher class person who falls into disrepute and as it was mainly upper class people that read the books, like the other Holmes stories, we can assume that the Victorian upper class preferred to read about their own class.

The Speckled Band is about an upper class family that have lost most of their money. This would appeal to the readers because its an upper class family that is on the brink of becoming a lower class. The Cardboard Box has a family of middle class women (3 sisters), granted middle class status, because their father was a general in the army. Two of the sisters loved a sailor called Jim Browner, one of whom married him. The third sister thought it was absolutely preposterous that they, a well respected middle class family, should have anything at all to do with a lower class sailor.

One particular passage showed some of Jim Browner’s lower class qualities of being a vicious drunk “the last six months that she was here she would speak of nothing but his drinking and his ways. ” This indicates that the people of Victorian Britain liked reading about this sort of thing, the mixing of two different classes because it should not be done and was a bit mischievous. In Victorian times there was a lot of poverty and crime about, with over 70% of all people in this time living in extreme poverty. In cities there were ghettos in which disease and crime were rampant. Victorian towns and cities were dangerous and full of beggars.

With this there came a strong feeling of “us and them” between the classes, although all the other classes either frowned upon, hated or pitied the poor. In The Man with the Twisted Lip, there is a lot of poverty and crime depicted within it ” ‘There is a trap door… which could tell a few tales of what has passed through it upon moonless nights’ ‘what! You do not mean bodies? ‘ ‘Aye, Watson, bodies’ “. This highlights that in Victorian Britain there was a lot of crime and murders, many of which went unnoticed by the police, largely because they were murders of the poor and were not to be bothered with.

The other two stories do not depict as much poverty or say that much about the everyday crimes of that of Victorian London, other than focussing on the main crime the story is based on. Although in The Speckled Band, the step father to the two sisters was once very wealthy but had squandered away all his money that had been left to him by his ancestors, he once worked in India and in a fit of rage “he beat his native butler to death, and narrowly escaped a capitol sentence”.

Cite this page

Sherlock Holmes stories. (2017, Oct 20). Retrieved from

Sherlock Holmes stories
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7