Detective Viewpoint: “A Scandal in Bohemia”

The character of Sherlock Holmes depicts the detective-flâneur; he utilizes his unique understanding of human nature in combination with his keen observation skills to solve mysteries. Holmes uses disguises to create a sense of ambiguity and efficiently blend into the background. By blending into the crowd, Holmes is able to distance himself from other individuals and remain incognito, like the flâneur. “He was… the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has ever seen,” which is what made him so successful as a detective. Holmes emphasizes the difference between seeing and observing. Most people see what is around them but they do not examine it and take in its meaning. By making meaning out of things that most people ignore and noticing specific details, Holmes is able to quickly come to conclusions. For example, he is able to determine that the visitor works in the medical domain from him “smelling of iodoform, with a black mark of silver nitrate upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the right side of his top-hat where he has secreted his stethoscope” (Conan Doyle). In addition, Holmes has a unique understanding of human nature. He knew that the woman would grab the picture first when her home caught on fire, thus unveiling the hiding place of the desired object. Like the flâneur, Holmes observes everything, while remaining himself unnoticed. He sees the world rather than observes, as a result he is quickly able to solve mysteries in a way that someone who simply saw these items would not be able to. These observation skills and the ability to blend into the crowd result in an uncanny knowledge of people and their environment. It is in this capacity that the flâneur is able to take on the role of a detective.

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