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The character of Sherlock Holmes Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 12 October 2017

The character of Sherlock Holmes

What is it about the character of Sherlock Holmes that the Victorian readership found so engaging? How do you account for the enduring appeal of the Baker Street detective? “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” is a collection of short crime fiction stories first published in 1892, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle during the Victorian period. They recount the exploits of a legendary fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. These stories appealed to the Victorians because they offered an escape from the crime ridden society they lived in. Holmes never failed to solve a crime and offered them moral certainty.

Although in current society we are more competent at solving crimes, Conan Doyle’s stories are still enjoyed as they are an entertaining, easy read for many a modern day reader. I, for one, enjoy the old-fashioned formal language used. Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859. After being educated in Jesuit schools he later studied at the city university and qualified as a doctor. When Conan Doyle created Holmes he was working as a doctor and he based the character on Joseph Bell, a surgeon and teacher who he admired greatly.

The Sherlock Holmes stories grew rapidly in popularity, and Conan Doyle finally gave up working as a doctor to pursue a full-time writing career. Although he grew tired of the Holmes stories, he was offered i?? 50 per story by the editor of “The Strand” in 1891, and this encouraged him to continue writing them. In this essay I will analyse five of the short stories from “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”; “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, “The Man with the Twisted Lip”, “The Noble Bachelor”, “The Red-Headed League” and “The Speckled Band”.

I will explore why these stories appealed to Victorian readers and continue to appeal to modern day readers. At the time when the stories were written and set, Britain was in a strong capitalist age. Trade and industry were booming, making landowners, industrialists and the wealthy even richer. But along with wealth came poverty, and the poor people of Victorian Britain suffered greatly. Thousands of people (often giving up everything they owned) moved to industrial towns and cities from the country looking for work and the chance of being better off.

London was seen as a city of dreams, where every man could earn well. “The streets of London are paved with gold” was a belief that gave many people hope. However, reality was quite different. Instead of streets paved with gold, people who flocked to London found themselves living on streets covered in human faeces, rats and filth. Lack of public transport led to high density back to back houses which were built clustered around factories in which their inhabitants worked. Those lucky enough to find a job in a factory were paid a pittance and had to survive in appalling living conditions.

Often, three or four families would be forced to live in one room. There was just one toilet per street in these impoverished areas, and combined with crowded conditions, lack of clean water (the pump was usually just next to the toilet, which led to contamination) and extremely limited food, this led to disease. Typhoid, typhus and cholera killed thousands of people living in Victorian London. The smoke from the factories carried black fumes over the slums which settled in a smog. This pollution increased the health risks of the people even further.

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