Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies



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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies

English Language and Literature

Tomáš Bačík



Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes: A Comparative Analysis

Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: Stephen Paul Hardy, Ph.D.
2013


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.

……………………………………………..

Author’s signature

Acknowledgement
I would like to thank my supervisor Stephen Paul Hardy, Ph.D. for his helpful guidance, my fellow students and, most importantly, my wife for her support and patience.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction …………………………………………………….………………...1

2. The Roots of Detective Fiction …………………………………………………..5

2.1. Introduction ...…………………………………………………………..5

2.2. The Birth of the New Genre ...………………………………………….5

2.3. Social Context ………………………………………………………….8

3. Sherlock Holmes ………………………………………………………………...11

3.1. Mr. Sherlock Holmes..………………………………………………….11

3.2. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ………………………………………………..11

3.3. The World’s Only Consulting Detective ………………………………13

3.4. The Sidekick and the Others…………………………………………....17

3.5. The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes…………………………………..21

4. A Study in Symbols……………………………………... ………………………23

4.1. History Repeats Itself…………………………………………………..23

4.2. Light in the Darkness…………………………………………………...24

4.3. Scarlet Turns Pink………………………………………………………29

5. The Raise and Fall of Sherlock Holmes………………………………………….36

5.1. The Final Problem………………………………………………………36

5.2. Sherlock Holmes is Dead……………………………………………….37

5.3 Long Live Sherlock ……………………………………………………..40

6. Conclusion………………………………………………………………………...46

7. Works Cited………………………………………………………………………50

Appendix: List of Abbreviations…………………………………………………….54

I. Introduction

Sherlock Holmes is the most famous creation of the Scottish writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since Holmes’s first literary appearance in 1887, he has become the archetype of the amateur private detective. Although Sherlock Holmes is not the first private detective who entered the world of fiction, the fame he reached after his literary birth dwarfed his fictional predecessors and started his way to eternity. In the last 125 years, he has kept an eye on his Britain in the original stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as in a vast number of pastiches and adaptations. Along with his faithful companion Dr. Watson, they have repeatedly appeared in all kinds of literature, movies and TV programmes. While some of the adaptations keep the detective in his original environment of Victorian London, others have moved the detective in place and time and employed his scientific methods in different social or political contexts.

The aim of this thesis is to introduce the original work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring Sherlock Holmes and offer a comparative analysis of Doyle’s texts and the recent BBC TV series Sherlock. The latter was created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis in 2010 and updates the famous detective for the modern era of the twenty-first century. The first part of the thesis, consisting of chapters The Roots of Detective Fiction and Sherlock Holmes, has an introductory character. The second part, which includes chapters A Study in Symbols and The Rise and Fall of Sherlock Holmes, brings an analysis of selected works and tries to decipher the main messages that the authors convey as well as the social and political subtext carried in both Doyle’s writing and Sherlock.

The Chapter The Roots of Detective Fiction, captures the ‘pre-Holmes period’ of the genre. Its aim is to introduce the history of modern detective fiction, its pioneers such Edgar Allan Poe, Emilie Gaboriau, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins and their works which served as an inspiration to Doyle when he created his eccentric detective. Apart from the cultural survey of Doyle’s predecessors, it introduces the social and political conditions of the Victorian Era that powered the popularity of the new genre.

The following chapter titled Sherlock Holmes starts with the introduction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his life and work. Furthermore, it introduces the basic premises of the Sherlock Holmes stories. It answers questions as to why Doyle created a science-minded and rationally thinking detective and suggests which literary and real life models served him as inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes. It mentions fictional detectives such as Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin or Emilie Gaboriau’s Monsieur Lecoq as well as figures such as Dr. Joseph Bell and Oscar Wilde. The chapter also does not forget to introduce other essential characters of Sherlock Holmes stories such as Dr. Watson, Ms. Hudson and Professor Moriarty. Lastly, it brings a short overview of some of the most notable TV and film adaptations.

The second part of the thesis is dedicated to the comparative analysis. Its first chapter A Study in Symbols deals with Doyle’s premier novel of the original canon, A Study in Scarlet, and the opening episode of Sherlock called A Study in Pink. It analyses the social, cultural and political backgrounds of both stories. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes to tackle issues such as social injustice, insufficient methods of the official police force and, most importantly, to carry a message of the superiority of science and rationality over the traditional religious beliefs. Sherlock tackles social issues of modern society such as acceptance of homosexuality and gender equality. It also brings new views on science and technology by showing both the good and bad of the technological era.

The second part of the analysis is called The Rise and Fall of Sherlock Holmes. It deals with Doyle’s story The Final Problem and the closing episode of the second season of Sherlock titled Reichenbach Fall. The chapter looks closely at the characters of Professor Moriarty and Jim Moriarty as they symbolize dangers and threats related to the respective societies. The main significance of the two stories, however, lies in the fact that they bring, at least temporarily, the detectives’ missions to an end. While Sherlock Holmes could not escape the hatred of its own creator, Sherlock kills himself to save his beloved. The thesis tries to analyse how the circumstances of their deaths reflect the overall messages of both Doyle’s text and the Sherlock series.

The strong focus of chapters A Study in Symbols and The Rise and Fall of Sherlock Holmes is also put on Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock’s personalities and the nature of their relationships with Dr. Watson and John respectively. I deliberately chose to analyse the opening stories of both Doyle’s canon and Sherlock series as they define the two main characters and their relationships. Stories The Final Problem and Reichenbach Fall were selected as they close important chapters of the lives of both Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock. The thesis aims to prove that while Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing celebrates reason over faith, Sherlock searches for a balance between rationality and humanity. It also examines how Doyle’s texts and Sherlock reflect societies in which both Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock live in.

In the thesis, I rely heavily on the original texts written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the TV series Sherlock. These are stated as primary sources. The abbreviations used when citing Doyle’s books and Sherlock episodes are listed in the appendix of this thesis. Apart from the primary sources, the thesis benefits from information found in resources such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica or sections of The Biography Channel Website dedicated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his work. The arguments in the comparative analysis are supported mainly by selected essays from compilations Sherlock Holmes for the 21st Century: Essays on New Adaptations and Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom: Essays on the BBC Series. All other secondary sources which are not mentioned here are listed in chapter Works Cited.

2. The Roots of Detective Fiction
2.1. Introduction

The modern detective story as a narrative genre emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century. While its birth might be a subject of both academic and public discourses, there is one date that stands head and shoulders above others. It is April 1841, when Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), an American short-story writer poet and critic, introduced his fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin to the world of literature in The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The character featured in two other stories, The Purloined Letter (1845) and The Mystery of Marie Roget (1845), and became a prototype for many to follow including Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Émile Gaboriau and, eventually, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose original work and its adaptations are the primary focus of this thesis. This chapter looks at the roots of modern detective fiction and aims to analyze the pre-Holmes period of the genre from literary and social perspectives.


2.2 The Birth of the New Genre

Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the detective story as “type of popular literature in which a crime is introduced and investigated and the culprit is revealed.” Furthermore, it lists five traditional elements of the genre:

1. The seemingly perfect crime

2. The wrongly accused suspect at whom circumstantial evidence points

3. The bungling of dim witted police

4. The greater power of observation and superior mind of the detective

5. The startling and unexpected denouement, in which the detective reveals how the identity of the culprit was ascertained (“detective story”).

These ‘rules’ were firmly set by Poe in his three stories, for which he is usually regarded as the inventor of the modern detective fiction, yet even he had precursors of his own. Towery argues that “seeds of the genre are to found as far back as ancient times”, as the fascination by crime and mystery is as old as humankind. The literary origins of the genre are compiled in The Omnibus of Crime (1929) by Dorothy L. Sayers. The list includes a number of apocryphal books of the Bible, names such as Voltaire, Robert Greene or William Goldwin as well as the periodical The Newgate Calendar – the annals of crime published through the eighteenth and nineteenth century in Great Britain. More importantly, there were a couple of modern detective stories published before 1841, namely Das Fraulein von Scuderi (1819) by E.T.A. Hoffman, The Secret Cell (1837) and The Cork Leg (1838) by William Edwin Burton. These, however, enjoyed almost no readership at the time of their creation compared to some 5000 subscribers to Graham’s Magazine by the time The Murders in the Rue Morgue was first published on its pages.

The common feature of all detective stories is the element of mystery. As a word, mystery refers to the unknown or the unanswered. As a literary theme, it is strongly associated with the genre that predated the modern detective fiction, the Gothic Novel. The gothic novels also referred to as Gothic romance or Gothic horror novels often employed mysterious elements - dark and gloomy settings such as medieval castles and ruins, underground passages, long-hidden family secrets or the supernatural in their plots. If Poe has the credit for inventing the detective story, then Horace Walpole (1717-1797) earned his for starting the vogue for the Gothic Novel by writing The Castle of Otranto (1764). In the heyday of the genre, by the turn of the nineteenth century, he was followed by authors such as Ann Radcliffe (Mysteries of Udolpho, Italian), Matthew Gregory Lewis (The Monk) or Melmoth the Wanderer (Frankenstein).

Later in the nineteenth century, Poe extracted the elements of mystery from the gothic novel and made them a core theme of his stories. Rollyson argues that in Poe’s detective stories “the mystery goes from being only one of the elements in a story to being the central purpose of the story.” Thus crime, the symbol of the unknown or the unanswered, became the centre of the plot. Inspired by The Memoirs of Eugène François Vidocq (1775-1857), a French venturesome criminalist and the founder of the first official detective bureau, and Voltaire’s Zadig (1748) Poe created, as Panek calls it, “a grouchy, condescending, misanthropist genius” (7). C. Auguste Dupin, an amateur detective, speaks to a reader through a less intelligent, in this case unnamed acquaintance, who serves as a perfect foil to the brilliance of the mastermind detective. “In this story (The Murders in the Rue Morgue), then, can be seen the prototypes for future pairings of detectives and companions, of which the most famous include Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Captain Arthur Hastings, and Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin” (Rollyson)

Soon after the publishing of Poe’s short stories, the detective story grew into novel length, and then, metaphorically speaking, took off to the races. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) carefully entered the world of detective fiction with Bleak House (1853), a novel featuring Inspector Bucket solving a murder case. Dickens’ another detective story, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870) ended unfinished owing to the author’s sudden death. The increasing demand for such stories was answered by Dickens’ friend, admirer and occasional collaborator, Wilkie Collins (1824-1889). His The Moonstone (1868) is considered one of the first English detective stories and several features of the book became conventions of the genre. “The reader has all the clues before the crime is solved, yet the solution comes as a complete surprise. Several different people are plausibly suspected of theft. The plot is complicated and features red herrings, false alibis, suspicious behaviour, and thrilling scenes.” (“The Moonstone”)

Detective fiction was also booming outside of the British Isles. The French novelist Emile Gaboriau (1832 -1873) laid groundwork for a scientific minded sleuth with great observation skills by creating his Monsieur Lecoq who featured in L’Affaire Lerouge (1866), Le Crime de Orcival (1867), Le Dossier no.113 (1867), Les Esclaves des Paris (1868) and Monsieur Lecoq (1868). Lecoq was, similar to Poe’s Dupin, inspired by Eugène François Vidocq and became one of the main acknowledged influences on Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Unlike Dupin, however, Lecoq was no private detective, but an employee of La Sûreté Nationale (founded by Vidocq in 1812), the original title for The French National Police.

The popularity of detective stories flourished gradually throughout the nineteenth century hand in hand with both increasing literacy and improving accessibility of texts. The most notable characters such as Poe’s eccentric Auguste Dupin, Dickens’ Inspector Bucket, Collins’s methodical Sergeant Cuff or Gaboriau’s deductive Monsieur Lecoq set the cornerstone of the trend that was shortly to become established as a literary genre of its own.
2.3. Social Context

Despite its indubitable American and French roots (Poe and Gaboriau), the genre of detective fiction entrenched in the Great Britain and, thanks to authors like Dickens, Collins and, most importantly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, become characteristically British. Its development is, therefore, strongly connected to social conditions before and during the Victorian Age (1837–1901). The changing nature of society in the late eighteenth century changed, inevitably, the nature of crime too. “The industrial revolution brought about not only the growth of the city (by 1851, over half of the population of Britain was located in urban areas), but also an economy which was beginning to set more value by its portable property than land. The theft of property thus became a real threat, especially in an environment where thousands of people were living in close proximity” (Pittard). Consequently, the Metropolitan Police of London – the first professional force in England was established in 1829. By the time of its foundation, however, it did not have a detective department. It was not until 1842 when “a few well-publicised failures to detect crime in the early 1840’s and an attempt on the life of the young Queen Victoria in May 1842, provoked harsh public criticism of police performance, and fostered a recognition in the police leadership that crime investigation required special skills, experience and a professional approach, which the common policeman lacked” (Makov 169), that the first permanent cadre of plainclothes crime-fighters, later known as Scotland Yard, was founded.

Soon after the profession of detective came into being, detectives of all kinds began to enter the world of literary fiction. Speaking of detectives, Makov points out that in the fiction of the nineteenth century, the term detective had a rather broad meaning: “In addition to persons who enforced the law as employees of the police, the texts featured numerous private detectives – either self employed or employees of a private agency.” The latter category also includes those “who undertook the task of detection not as livelihood, but by accident, for altruistic reasons, as a hobby or as a way to advance their own private interests” (165). While during the 1850s and 1860s, many public servants were made into heroes in texts – mainly due to the contribution of Dickens and Collins – later in the nineteenth century, they were to give way to private sleuths, who were assigned much greater and superior role as guardian of justice. As Pittard puts it, crime fiction emphasizes “the role of the official detective as the employee of whoever wanted the mystery solved rather than the independent restorer of order.”

Apart from the novelty of the detective work and the ingenious skills of writers, it was also the intense public debate on law and judicial practices that took place in Great Britain of the nineteenth century that fuelled a boom of the arising phenomenon. Insufficient access to counsel before the Prisoners' Counsel Act of 1836, the misuse of capital punishment during the ‘bloody code’ period, the lack of direct or circumstantial evidence – forensic science was at its infancy back then – led to significant “flaws of judicial processes” (Panek 3). At the time when the above mentioned topics become the order of the day, Dickens hit the bull’s eye with his abolitionist approach to capital punishment, as did Gaboriau and later Doyle with their evidence and science-minded detectives.



3. Sherlock Holmes
3.1. Mr. Sherlock Holmes

I’ve found it! I’ve found it, I have found a re-agent which is precipitated by haemoglobin and by nothing else”, with these words of delight over the “most practical medico-legal discovery for years” (SS 10), Sherlock Holmes enters the world of fiction. A moment later, he is showing “his little peculiarity” to his newly acquired companion, Dr. John H. Watson. The year is 1881 and the two are about to move into a suite at No. 221, Baker Street. The book is called A Study in Scarlet and Sherlock Holmes is ready to set off on his journey “across Victorian landscapes of yellow-fogged, gas-lit London, dashing hansom cabs and England’s wild, Gothic countryside.” (Ellis 41). In the period between 1881 and 1914, Holmes was fighting crime of all sorts in fifty six stories and four novels written by his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Thus the “most perfect reasoning and observing machine” (Doyle, TASH 2) with a soft spot for science, violins and cocaine became an icon of world literature. “Come, Watson, come!” he cried. The game is afoot.” (Doyle, TRSH 423)
3.2. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), Scottish writer and physician, was born on May 22, 1859 in Edinburg to a wealthy Irish Catholic family. Since his childhood, Doyle got exposed to a wide range of literature owing to his mother’s passion for books and her gift of storytelling. Doyle acknowledged her influence upon his future work in his own biography: "In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life." (“Sherlock Holmes online”)

After graduating from Stonyhurst College, the young Doyle decided to follow a medical career and entered the University of Edinburgh. It was during his studies in Edinburgh when Doyle, driven by the changes in society, formed his opinion on science and its progressive ideas.”He was part of the new generation that mostly ignored the theological implication on their work and lifestyle and instead relied on empiricism and expertise that defied the old conventions” (Isokoski 2). This worldview is running through Doyle’s work like the scarlet thread of murder through the colourless skein of life of his most famous character.

While still at school, he wrote his first story The Mystery of the Sasassa Valley (1879). The story, which was strongly influenced by his favourite authors at the time, Edgar Allan Poe and Bret Harte, was published Chamber's Journal in Edinburgh. It was followed by The American’s Tale (1879), published in London Society. A few years later, as a married man, he moved down to Portsmouth and opened his own medical practice. It secured him a comfortable income, but as ambitious as he was, Doyle often suffered from boredom when not occupied with patients. To kill the boredom and satisfy his craving for recognition as an author, he took up writing again; “During the next years, the young man divided his time between trying to be a good doctor and struggling to become a recognized author” (“Sherlock Holmes online)

All his hard penning efforts came to fruition in 1887 when, after rejection by three other publishers, Beeton’s Christmas Annual published his novel A Study in Scarlet, in which Doyle’s most famous literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, first appeared. The birth of the character brought him fame. On the other hand, however, it prefigured a dichotomy that accompanied Doyle for all his life as he felt that the character was taking him away from more serious forms of writing to which he wanted to devote his career. “There was Sherlock Holmes, who very quickly became world famous, in stories its author considered at best "commercial" and there were a number of serious historical novels, poems and plays, based upon which Conan Doyle expected to be recognized as a serious author.” (“Sherlock Holmes online”)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a well educated man of many interests. Except for the 56 stories and four novels featuring Sherlock Holmes, he utilized his talents and the medical background in novels such as The Firm of Girdlestone (1890), The Stark Munro Letters (1895) or Round the Red Lamp (1894). Historical fiction was enriched by “his tale of 14th-century chivalry, The White Company (1891), and its companion piece, Sir Nigel (1906)” (“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”). His involvement in the second Boer War (1899 – 1902), where he voluntarily served as a doctor, swung his attention towards military writing. It resulted in The Great Boer War (1900), The British Campaign in France and Flanders, 6 vol. (1916–20) and The Crime of the Congo (1909). His later work was dedicated to his support of spiritualism. The Biography channel explains that: “Back at the University of Edinburgh, Doyle became increasingly invested in Spiritualism or "Psychic religion," a belief system that he would later attempt to spread through a series of his written works”. These included Case for Spirit Photography (1922), Pheneas Speaks (1927) and a two-volume The History of Spiritualism (1926). Despite Doyle’s various contributions to both fictional and non-fictional literary genres, he is best known for what he called “lower stratum of literary achievement” (Ellis 45) - “creation of the detective Sherlock Holmes—one of the most vivid and enduring characters in English fiction.” (“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”)


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