Sherlock Holmes- The “Great Detective”

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Holmes contributed two important aspects to the development of detective fiction: he created the image of the “great detective,” and his success established the “classical” tradition in which a detective’s excellent reasoning was essentially responsible for solving crime (Paul 55).  His approach to detection relied heavily on scientific rationalism, his natural genius, systematic studying, and well-organized filing.  In the last chapter of the book, Watson describes how he anxiously awaited to discuss the details of the Baskerville mystery with Holmes.  Watson was aware that Holmes would never allow cases to overlap, and that his logical mind would not be distracted from its present work to dwell upon past memories (Doyle 892).  Holmes attempted to systematically file cases so that his knowledge base and skills were not distracted with details from other cases.  During Holmes and Watson’s discussion at the end of the case, Holmes declares that Watson and the others involved in the case can find notes regarding the matter under the heading B in his indexed list of cases (Doyle 893).  By keeping an organized file of every case, Holmes could revisit and review details of any case should issues ever arise.

Holmes relied on the power of observation to uncover the truth in every case he solved.  Holmes believed that “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” (Doyle 799).  By simply being aware of his surroundings and keeping an eye out for unusual things, Holmes could quickly piece together a mystery.  His observations could be as basic as observing from someone’s forefinger that they make their own cigarettes (Doyle 787).  However, Holmes makes more important observations such as the fact that Stapleton eerily resembles the infamous Hugo Baskerville.  Holmes declares, “My eyes have been trained to examine faces and not their trimmings.  It is the first quality of a criminal investigator that he should see through a disguise” (Doyle 879).  Holmes’s strong observational skills contribute greatly to his ability to solve crime.

Holmes was also a man who could see past appearances and link seemingly unrelated facts into a comprehensible whole.  In the opening of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes examines a cane left by a mysterious visitor and declares, “there are certainly one or two indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several deductions” (Doyle 784).  From his examination, Holmes correctly identifies the mysterious owner as Dr. Mortimer.  According to Ousby, “Holmes’s deductions allow the reader to find meaning and an interest in such apparently mundane items” (154-55).  Later on, Holmes figures out that Stapleton’s knowledge of their rooms and of Holmes’s appearance, as well as his general conduct, must make his career of crime greater than just the Baskerville case.  Holmes insists that Stapleton is quite the desperate and dangerous man, likely responsible for a string of burglaries over the past few years: “we had an example of his readiness of resource that morning when he got away from us so successfully, and also of his audacity in sending back my own name to me through the cabman” (Doyle 896).  Throughout The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes is able to discover relationships between people and events that no one else can detect.  After his first meeting with Dr. Mortimer, Holmes asks for 24 hours during which he reflects over their conversation and determines the best plan of action.  Dr. Watson explains, “I knew that seclusion and solitude were very necessary for my friend in those hours of intense mental concentration during which he weighed every particle of evidence, constructed alternative theories, balanced one against the other, and made up his mind as to which points were essential and which immaterial” (Doyle 798).  Holmes’s innate sense of detection and ability to piece together any mystery help him to make many important revelations.


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