Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stranger than Fiction

In the Sherlock Holmes stories, Holmes remarks several times that real life is often weirder than the mind can imagine: "we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any efforts of the imagination" (51). Holmes' insistence on the strangeness of everyday life and his preference for the smaller cases that present idiosyncratic details versus the large/high-profile cases that all seem the same, reflect Doyle's awareness of the weirdness of his society. We have discussed the strangeness of British society--especially at the beginning of the semester (ridiculous corsets, wigs, etc.)--and how Britons focused on the weirdness of other societies (African and American) rather than recognizing their own eccentricities. Doyle, however, points out the unusual facets of British society through normalizing weird--calling out life in general to be weird. Through these stories of odd crimes, odd human behavior, Doyle easily entertains his readers by allowing them to join in his observation of the odd, and yet he also shows them just how odd normal life can be. The question is, did they know that by going "How strange!" about the events and characters in the stories they were actually going "How strange!" about their society and possibly themselves?

1 comment:

  1. I doubt that a majority of the readers would have made the connection you're suggesting, but not because of lack of intelligence, per se. I think the common Englishman at the time would simply be more ignorant to the affairs outside their own social sphere and wouldn't care to ponder on more grandiose concepts. Basically ignorance, perhaps purposeful ignorance, would be the main cause of the disconnect.