Tag Archives: Character Analysis

The Irony of Analyzing Sherlock Holmes

My dear friend and blogging bestie (soon to be IRL bestie after we finally meet for BEA!) Alyssa over at the carefully crafted blog of Books Take You Places came up with a really fun idea one day after she realized how much she really loves a particular character in literature, no matter where he turns up (you’ll have to check out her blog post today if you want to know!) – So many of us bloggers have a character we love (or love to hate) in literature, so let’s do a little featured post on them! While it may be her English major talking, I thought it was a really fun idea and decided to join in!

Here came my dilemma… I’m really not a classic literature person whatsoever and since I just did all my fairy tale retelling research for Project Fairy Tale, where could I turn next? Immediately the idea of Sherlock Holmes popped into my head. Classic, mysterious, and downright analytical himself – He seemed the perfect character to present as one of my favorites from literature! And so it stuck.

Then I laughed at myself. Isn’t it a little ironic that I chose to analyze one of the arguably most analytical fictional characters ever created? Ha. Color me amused.

Aside from the fact that Sherlock Holmes seemed to be the easiest choice as well as one of my favorite characters from literature, he became my selection because of my love for mysteries. Growing up, I only had a vague knowledge of what Holmes was all about, but I always loved the intricate tangle of several seemingly non-sensical clues and a gifted sleuth who could put them all together to solve a mystery. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been a fan of mysteries. From various puzzles in The Baby-Sitter’s Club (remember they had Baby Sitter’s mysteries!?!?) to the Something Queer mysteries (back when queer didn’t have such a different connotation…) to my current (yet neglected) love for cozy mysteries. I feel like Sherlock Holmes was the foundation to this thirst for putting together clues and solving a mystery that seemed impossible to solve!

Now. We all have a vague idea of who Sherlock Holmes is, but let’s draw up a dossier, if you will, to bring everyone up to speed on the specifics:
** Facts (as well as fun facts) were gathered from Wikipedia (I know, this is the part where we all moan and groan because we were brought up not to use Wikipedia as a credible source in high school/college, but you know what? This is a blog! We’re just having fun here!) 

CHARACTER DETAILS

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Name: Sherlock Holmes
Residence: 221B Baker Street, London
Occupation: “Consulting detective” – often takes on “lost cause” cases
Known For: Abductive reasoning (which dear Lord, I cannot possibly explain so check out this Wikipedia link in attempts to understand), attention to detail, disguises, untidiness, extreme practical & scientific knowledge (including forensic sciences and chemistry) but little care for specified topics of “frivolity” (philosophy, literature, astronomy, politics, etc)
Often Associated With: Dr. John Watson, former army surgeon. First comes to split a flat with Holmes after returning from the army. Friend of Holmes as well as frequent case assistant and chronicler. Irene Adler, former American opera singer. Despite her fame, Irene Adler actually only appeared in one story: “A Scandal In Bohemia”. Often identified as the true great love of Sherlock Holmes. Mycroft Holmes. Brother of Sherlock. Also skilled in reasoning but more concerned with frivolity and clubs.

LITERARY FACTS

Penned by: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1859-1930
Literary Presence: Four novels as well as 56 short stories
First Appearance: A STUDY IN SCARLET, 1887
Last Appearance (in as penned by Doyle): THE CASE-BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, short stories published from 1921-1927)

So those are the facts about Sherlock Holmes! I actually hadn’t started reading the actual Holmes novels until a year or so ago when I read A STUDY IN SCARLET (which, by the way, was one of my first reviews on my blog. SLIGHTLY embarrassing…) and then proceeded to read THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES which contain a multitude of short stories. Until I picked up A STUDY IN SCARLET and just had to read more Holmes, I had no idea the short stories even excited! They’re quite entertaining and great if you just want a taste of mystery and don’t have time for a full-out novel. Truth be told, though, the full novels aren’t terribly long either. I think ASIS was less than 200 pages.

All right. Enough fun facts about me. Let’s get to some lesser-know facts about Holmes and his literary apperances!

SHERLOCK HOLMES FUN FACTS

  • Due to his extreme attention to detail and lack of personal relationships, many Holmes fans have speculated that (whether intended by Doyle or not) Holmes may have suffered from an acute case of Asperger’s Synrdrome
  • In all of Holmes’ literary appearances, never once has he actually been quoted as saying, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” It’s quite a commonly misquoted phrase! He’s often used “elementary” to describe simple ideas or concepts and has often called Watson “my dear Watson” but never were the two strung together.
  • Sherlock Holmes has been credited consistently in The Guinness Book of World Records as “most portrayed movie character”, appearing in over 200 films and played by more than 70 different actors.

MODERN DAY HOLMES & ADAPTATIONS

  • ELEMENTARY on CBS – I’ve actually watched a few episodes (although not consistently) about this modern take on Sherlock Holmes. All the same reasoning, but this time Holmes is a recovering drug-user (which true, Holmes did occasionally use drugs in the books, but was not addicted) and helps solve modern-day crimes. Watson is actually a female in the TV show (Lucy Liu) who is his sober sponsor and living with him to help him recover. I’m not a huge fan of Lucy Liu (although I do enjoy Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes), and I don’t like how they turned Holmes into a former addict. 
  • SHERLOCK is a British adaption of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. I’ve actually never seen it, but I know I’m interested! If anyone has watched Sherlock, I’d love to hear what you think!
  • The Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law – I actually quite love these movies!! I really enjoy RDJ’s role as Holmes as well as Jude Law as the sidekick Dr. Watson. I really like the way the films are produced as well and how the audience gets to see the break-down we the pieces are put together.
  • THE BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE, book one in the Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series: I’d actually heard of this series before but haven’t picked it up yet. Heidi reminded me that they were other there and I’d really like to see a retelling someday!
  • ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN, a children’s mystery series – Although this hasn’t actually been officially dubbed as a Holmes retelling or adaptation, I think this children’s series is very similar as far as mystery solving and sleuthing go as well as some of the supporting characters.

Have you read the novels or any of the short stories? Do you have a favorite Holmes moment? Which are your favorite adaptations, series, or retellings?

 

I hope you enjoyed my character breakdown of Sherlock Holmes! A big thanks to Alyssa for putting together this character analysis feature too!!!