Monday, April 12, 2010

Social commentary in these stories?

I really enjoyed reading these stories this week especially since I have watched many of them. They are very easy to read and the mystery is easy to understand. It is very predictable that he will solve the mystery but it is still enjoyable. I like the way Arthur Conan Doyle writes because the lower classes can also follow the story. I couldn't help but wonder what was his purpose behind the stories. The stories involve both the upper and lower classes (A Scandal in Bohemia and The Man with the Twisted Lip), the court system (The Boscombe Valley Mystery), romance (A Case of Identity), and many different situations. I also noticed that the people never went to the police but they came to Sherlock first. Are the stories a critique on the police system and their inability to solve the public's problems? I feel like there is a reason behind the stories, possibly some type of social commentary. Any ideas?


  1. I was also having trouble determining what the deeper meanings are in these stories, assuming there is one. They are obviously fun and enjoyable to read since everyone likes a good mystery, but I also see fewer deeper meanings than in some of the other works we've read. I like your observation about how they are easy to read, and this could definitely be a reflection of the shift to a more literate society. We also have the presence of documents in the mysteries such as letters (both hand-written and typed, which made me think about the importance of documents in society as we discussed with Dr. Jekyll. I also read that Doyle wrote these stories in his spare time. This could mean that he was merely writing them for the pleasure of himself and the reader rather than to convey more complicated meanings or critiques on society. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

  2. Well, at one point Holmes makes a comment about how the British Empire is so poorly ruled by the monarchy that they shall one day be ruled by their cousins across the seas, the Americans. I think every one of these stories probably has its own biting little criticism, but they're all kind of hidden.

    More importantly, though, I think this follows once again the trend towards emphasizing the empiric. In the very last story, Holmes criticizes Watson because he believes his accounts of their adventures are tales, when they should be lectures - meaning that the whole point of these is actually to instruct upon the value of logic as an aid to the judicial system and life in general. People believe too much those things which appear obvious, when usually, life is much more complicated...and yet still able to be puzzled out. That's what great is that he solves the unsolvable, all by careful observation. I think more than anything else this is just a commentary on the carelessness of the way we perceive the world, and a call to rationality.

  3. Following our class discussion on Tuesday, the fact that they are easy to read probably has to do something with the fact that they were published in installments in a magazine. Even today, stories in magazines are never super complicated because the magazine publisher obviously wants the reader to buy their magazine, but at the same time not become bored or have the story take too long to figure out. The pattern in these stories help make reading them more efficient (and enjoyable at the same time), something the Strand (isn't that the name of the magazine?) wanted.
    Why do the people go to Sherlock Holmes first? Probably because they know he will keep their secret. In "A Scandal in Bohemia," the King does not want to go to the police because if his relationship with Irene Adler were to get out, his engagement would be ruined. It is all about secrecy and who to trust, and the fact that they don't trust the police who work for the government says a lot about the society Holmes lived in.