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Thread: Holmes is a non-character

  1. #1
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    Holmes is a non-character

    I've just finished reading just about every Sherlock Holmes story ever written by Arthur Conan Doyle, and I have to say that very rarely does the character himself develop any kind of interesting features.

    It seems to me that Holmes is a constant Deus Ex Machina who develops skills and powers based on whatever the problem is. Doyle constantly writes himself into corners and then has to come up with some new expertise of Holmes' in order to escape it.

    I understand that Doyle didn't want to write this book - it's true, these stories do come across as fluff for the most part. However, there are a few notable exceptions in which the stories do achieve greatness.

    "The Sign of the Four" really struck me as one of the few stories in which Doyle developed his protagonist at all. It deals heavily with Holmes' lonely life and drug addiction, and gives some rare insight into our hero.

    To me, a much more interesting study could be made on Watson - what kind of a man resigns himself to be a dopey, fairly useless sidekick for life? Who admires another man SO MUCH that he would sit around and write stories about him all day, and get rebuked by his own hero for it?

    If anyone out there is writing a literary analysis of these stories for school, I highly recommend thinking about this angle. What sort of homoerotic worship culture was Doyle pushing?

  2. #2
    Worthless Hack Zippy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KidTruth View Post
    It seems to me that Holmes is a constant Deus Ex Machina who develops skills and powers based on whatever the problem is. Doyle constantly writes himself into corners and then has to come up with some new expertise of Holmes' in order to escape it.

    I think you've got a good point here. As much as I enjoy the books, I do think the 'persona' of Holmes is larger than the character.

    What I mean is that Holmes has become an icon and managed to cross into film, TV, comics, radio plays and the cultural consciousness in general. Subsequent writers and directors have added layers onto Doyle's original character, or focused on aspects which Doyle didn't really develop. As a result the Holmes we think of (the 'persona') is much better developed and interesting than the Holmes in Doyle's original works. In many ways it reminds me of the character of Tarzan (allegedly the most adapted character in literature). The original book wasn't that good, but the cultural impact is enormous.

    Still, all credit to Doyle for coming up with the character in the first place and laying the ground-work.
    Last edited by Zippy; 10-02-2007 at 06:45 AM.
    "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Anais Nin.

  3. #3
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    Sherlock Holmes is not just a literature character. The detective really made the world a safer place. He is inspired the criminology. He is made the world a safer place.

  4. #4
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    Maybe look at it a different way. Holmes as the egomaniacal, intellectually perfect but shallow and one-dimensional caricature has a following of one: Watson is the quintessential follower-worshipper, dutifully recording every astounding act of a disdainful and dismissive superman. One could go into all sorts of sado-masochistic underplay in their master/servant relationship, which is an archetype we've seen hundreds of times from Shakespeare's fools to Batman and Robin (or Alfred). But let's go a different way for a minute.

    Watson is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. Trapped writing the exploits of a superhero he secretly loathes and would like to see dead, but has become forever tied to. Holmes becomes more and more a dislikable character as the books progress, because these are the qualities his creator sees in him and chooses to play up. Doyle pours his own feelings of frustration with his creation into Watson, who if anything is Holmes' long-suffering victim.

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