What are the main features of Sherlock Holmes as a man and as a detective?
In this essay I shall seek to describe the character of Sherlock Holmes and compare it to his abilities and behaviour as a detective. It should serve as a testimony to the precision and mental ability of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in using his imagination in building detective cases and building a complex character like Sherlock Holmes.
The Sherlock Holmes stories describe firstly a detective of almost infinite ability in solving the most complex of cases from the smallest of clues. His ability to see the slightest shred of evidence sometimes borders on the absurd for those that are ignorant to these details. One such example of this observation is when Holmes was able to tell how Miss Stoner arrived at his lodgings in The Speckled Band .
The specific traits and abilities that Holmes exhibits are many, including probably the most important observation. His keen sense of observation is essential to his success and is exhibited in every case. Coupled with his observation skills is an interest in science and scientific research, and he shows a scientific base to almost all of his observations. This is perceived by Watson in A Scandal in Bohemia , when he says he was the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen . This goes to show that as far as his work is concerned, Holmes uses logical and scientifically based methods. Holmes shows this in The Speckled Band when he says how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data . It is said by Watson at the beginning of The Speckled Band that he [Holmes] refused to associate himself with any investigation, which did not tend towards the unusual and even the fantastic . This proves that it is only Holmes who has the observation skills and the logic to solve these cases, as even the police force find it impossible to come to some conclusion, and the cases are dismissed as unsolvable. Watson also comments the Holmes conclusions are, always founded on a logical basis .
Often Holmes proves his hypothesis by meticulous scientific experiment and replication of key events. An example of this would be when Holmes re-enacted the events of the night that Miss Stoner heard the same low whistling sound that her sister did just before she died in The Speckled Band . This proves that Holmes conclusions have a solid base and are difficult, therefore to argue against.
He shows, whilst conducting his investigations, almost no emotional involvement with the characters which enables him to conduct his work in an objective way without emotional interference. An example of this would be The Speckled Band where Holmes is not remorseful bout the death of Roylott. This is shown by Watson s comment in A Scandal in Bohemia , when he tells how emotions would only hinder Holmes as a detective, a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his . Watson s comment is pointing out that if Holmes were emotionally attached to a case it would effect his judgement completely.
These attributes when put together in one character by Conan Doyle go to form a detective with virtually no weaknesses. This, I believe makes Holmes almost infallible, except I also think that this makes Holmes unable to see the danger of some characters and be overly confident in his own intellect to be out wited by someone. His rare example of fallibility is shown at the end of A Scandal in Bohemia when Watson concludes that Sherlock Holmes was beaten by a women s wit .
As a man, Holmes is portrayed in a way that gives the impression that Holmes skills as a detective, and the fact that he is aware of his amazing abilities and brilliant mind, affects his ability to interact with society in any normal way. His life operates outside of normal contemporary society; Holmes develops no relationships with anyone else, except Watson. Watson comments on this flaw in Holmes in A Scandal in Bohemia when he says as a lover, he would have been placed himself in a false position .
His relationship with Watson is the key in assessing Holmes as a person. He has what can be described as teacher/pupil relationship with Watson, and Watson s respect and admiration of Holmes allows this relationship. There are many occasions in the cases where Watson has learnt from Holmes teachings.
He is also quite a passionate person, he passes some judgement on cases and people, and he has a committed sense of right and wrong. His interpretation is that justice must be done, and people must receive the punishment they deserve, as seen in The Speckled Band where he shows no remorse for the death of Dr Grimsby Roylott, even though Holmes admits he was indirectly responsible . This shows Holmes had passed judgement on Roylott, believing him to be deserving of such a punishment, as his last words were I cannot say that it is likely to weigh very heavily upon my conscience .
He does show extreme bravery and determination, which is helped by the blind faith of Watson, his sidekick. An example of his bravery, and Watson s willingness is in The Speckled Band when they stay in the Miss Stoners room to find out who murdered her sister.
For all these qualities in Holmes, one is left with the impression that he is a cold man who has no real attachment to the world around him and only feelings people have for him is respect for his mind and methods. Yet the impression is also that he does care in a kind of cool, dispassionate way, and has a strong sense of being a defender of right, almost as a calling. It is this consuming passion of his work, which makes Holmes unable to relate to society. In The Speckled Band , Holmes is described as working as he did rather for the love of his art than the acquirement of wealth and in A Scandal in Bohemia , Watson says that Holmes is deeply attracted by the study of crime .
In Conclusion, I think that it is Holmes observational skills and superior intellect which allows him to see cases in an all together different way from other people, that makes him a great detective.