Essay on Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Brief analysis of Sherlock Holmes:A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through the lenses of Structuralism and Feminist Theory.



The Holmes stories follow the same pattern. The stories are told through the character Watson who typically arrives at the Baker Street flat where Holmes is either speaking with a client or sitting in his comfy chair deep in opium induced thought. Watson is then invited to hear about a case. He is then asked by Holmes to participate in solving a mystery. Watson continuously marvels at his own ignorance in regards to how Holmes “thinks.” Despite how many solved mysteries Watson has been witness to or participated in, his awe of Holmes’s ability is consistent in all of the stories. Watson, an intelligent doctor who blindly follows Holmes on whatever case or adventure he is on, no matter the risk. In doing so Watson separates himself from his profession (doctor) in order to chronicle Holmes’s activities  and cases.Holmes on the other hand is his profession, his primary existence revolves around being a detective.


There is very little depth given to the female characters in Doyle’s stories. Watson spends a great deal of his time describing in extreme detail Holmes’s appearance and actions but fails to describe his own wife at all. Additionally Watson spends his time away from medicine on Baker Street instead of tending to his wife and home.  Internally he admires observes and documents Holmes, but no regard is given to his wife; she is given no opinion about Watson’s absence from her, and most wives would surely have complained enough.  It could be implied that he not discuss his with Holmes because Holmes doesn’t want his mind filled with information he can’t use in his profession.

The story where a woman seemed to actually appear is in “Scandal in Bohemia”. Irene Adler is mentioned by Holmes as “the woman”. Holmes has been warned that Ms. Adler is smart, clever, an anomaly compared to most women. She has been holding on to a photograph for personal reasons, but it is feared by Holmes’s client that she will use it to blackmail him and ruin his country. Ms. Adler has escaped has avoided the Kings men, and each search of her home has turned up nothing. Though the information given to him about her smarts, Holmes believes he will be the man to retrieve the photo.

He ignores all warning about her cleverness and attempts to outwit her based on his general knowledge based on observations of women. He plays on her feminine sympathies by getting beat up in front of her home. She falls for it and takes him in. With Watsons help they create an illusion of a fire in her home, because according to Holmes, she- like all women- will “instinctively” grab the item she values most.

In the end it is Ms. Adler, the women who has blind-sided Holmes, because he ignored all the warnings and underestimated her. This troubles him because he prides himself on his skills at observation. It is hard to tell if Holmes holds Irene Adler in contempt because she beat him at his own game, or if she is he holds her above all other women who otherwise receive little mention in the stories.  We could assume it is admiration, but then again Watson started off recalling the case with Irene Adler already dead.

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