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Xuan Le
Professor Haas
Writing 39B
30 April 2014
Essay 1, Draft 1
The Convention of Sherlock Holmes Characteristics
Everywhere on Earth would be a peaceful place if there were no commitment of crimes,
criminal threats and violations against law. Unfortunately, the society does not operate that way.
The Victorian Era is a great example of criminal problems during the 1800s to the 1900s. As a
consequence, people started to write about criminal stories: Indeed, collected chronicles of
criminals lives continued to be written, often using the Newgate title, through the nineteenth
century. This great mass of material about crime and criminals had a specific impact on the
modern development of the detective story(Panek, 5). Therefore, as a reply to these domestic
problems, Dr. Conan Doyle had introduced to the world a series of short stories about Sherlock
Holmes, a wonderful detective, who intelligently uses his sharp critical thinking skills to solve
numerous mysterious cases to bring justice back to the people. As a result, Sherlock Holmes has
become one of the most popular short stories in England and elsewhere. A famous quote from
The Sign of Four that describes Sherlock Holmes characteristics and his way of thinking: My
mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most
abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can
dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for
mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it,
for I am the only one in the world (Doyle, 3). Moreover, there are many scholarly texts from
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Binyon, Panek and Konnikova that focus on analyzing Sherlocks intellectual mind and his
deduction theory on solving problems. Hence, Sherlock himself has become a hero within his
audience due to many of his heroic acts and his incredible mind has made him a special detective
that the people in Victorian Era and even today have to learn from.
Sherlock Holmes contains a universal mind that inspires people over many generations:
In many ways, Sherlock Holmes was a visionary. His explanations, his methodology, his entire
approach to thought presaged developments in psychology and neuroscience that occurred over a
hundred years after his birth and over eighty years after his creators death (Konnikova,12).
The way he carefully pays attention to little objects and analyzes them meticulously helps him
solve many different cases. Together with his sharp critical thinking and immense pool of
knowledge, they also contribute to his great success of solving various different cases. The
excerpt Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction also agrees on Konnikovas
statement: Holmess collection of knowledge, too, is eccentric, is some areas highly detailed
and in others demonstrating astonishing ignorance and indifference. He possesses comprehensive
knowledge of chemistry, poisons, and sensational literature, has a good working knowledge of
British law, but eschews any nonrelevant areas of scholarship that may clutter his brain attic
(Delamater, Jerome, Prigozy, 22). This idea is proven by an event in The Sign of Four when
Sherlock explained his observations to Watson: It is simplicity itself," he remarked, chuckling
at my surprise,--"so absurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous; and yet it may serve to
define the limits of observation and of deduction. Observation tells me that you have a little
reddish mould adhering to your instep. Just opposite the Seymour Street Office they have taken
up the pavement and thrown up some earth which lies in such a way that it is difficult to avoid
treading in it in entering. The earth is of this peculiar reddish tint which is found, as far as I
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know, nowhere else in the neighborhood. So much is observation. The rest is deduction (Doyle,
7). Clearly, readers can see his close observation upon different objects, and through the use
critical thinking, Sherlock can conclude what has happened to someone just by a glance at that
person.
Besides that, Sherlock practices through mindful interaction in order to keep his thinking
process active and accurate: What Homes is really telling Watson when he contrasts seeing and
observing is to never mistake mindlessness for mindfulness, a passive approach with an active
involvement (Konnikova,5). Beyond that, Konnikova continuously provided many different
examples of Sherlock with an active mind and how important it is to practice mindfulness. One
great example that shows mindfulness can be recalled from one of Sherlocks short stories A
Scandal in Bohemia when Sherlock questioned Watsons observation about the steps from the
hall way to his room:
You have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.
Frequently.
How often?
Well, some hundreds of times.
Then how many are there?
How many? I dont know.
Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I
know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed (Doyle).
Fairly, there is a great difference between Sherlock and Watson about being mindful and
unmindful. It is also the main key for Sherlock to succeed in his career as a consulting detective.
Sherlock is not only a successful detective but he is also a hero himself. Through solving
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countless cases without accepting much compensation and credit proves his heroic characteristic
I examine the data, as an expert, and pronounce a specialist's opinion. I claim no credit in such
cases. My name figures in no newspaper. The work itself, the pleasure of finding a field for my
peculiar powers, is my highest reward (Doyle, 4). He loves what he does for the purpose of
helping people make him a great hero. As Binyon praised Sherlock: He is another proud,
alienated hero, superior to and isolated from the rest of humanity(Binyon, 10). Unlike super
heroes in the movies that people enjoy watching today, Sherlock Holmes owns none of those
super powers. In A Study in Scarlet, he explains how he embraces his own power of knowledge,
the power of observation and deduction to unravel many mysterious problems: When these
fellows are at fault they come to me, and I manage to put them on the right scent. They lay all the
evidence before me, and I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of
crime, to set them straight (Doyle, 1). Truly, Sherlock has become a detective role model, a
hero and an inspiration for many people, as Konnikova analyzed how deep Sherlock has left his
footprint in peoples hearts: Say the name Sherlock Holmes, and doubles, any number of
images will come to mind. The pipe. The deerstalker. The cloak. The violin. The hawklike
profile (Konnikova,11).
Even though, Sherlock is a great detective with an incredible mind that is second to no
one, he also has his own flaws, which makes him a very unique character. The very first flaw
that Dr. Watson observes from Sherlock is Sherlocks lack of the knowledge about the Solar
system: His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature,
philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothingMy surprise reached a climax,
however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the
composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century
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should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an
extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it(Doyle, 1). This is a shocking fact that surprises
not only Dr. Watson but the readers as well. However, due to the lack of Solar System
knowledge, readers can feel have a closer approach to Sherlock since he is also an imperfect
human character. The second flaw comes from the excerpt Theory and Practice of Classic
Detective Fiction. The text mentioned the moment that Dr. Watson describes Sherlock as an
emotionless person, who is unable to love and has a cold, detached mind. This instance comes
from the A Study in Scarlet: He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing
machine that the world has seen; but as a lover, he would have placed himself in a false position .
. . for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted
temperament was to introduce a distracting actor which would throw a doubt upon all his mental
results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not
be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his (Doyle, 11). Although every
Sherlock story ends without any romance, Sherlock manages to find someone that amazes him
with her intelligence in the chapter A Scandal in Bohemia: yet there was but one woman to him,
and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory(Doyle, 1). It is
also a compliment to women back in the Victorian Era since women did not have the opportunity
to go to school like men, Irene Adler has represented the womens intellectuality. To sum up,
Sherlock Homes is a humble, intelligent hero who also has flaws but he is a role model for
people all over the world to look up to.
The detective genre is still a very popular topic today in the world due to its active
interaction with the readers minds, which provides different opportunities for readers to exercise
their thinking skills. As Panek stated: If one is diligent, and detective story fans are nothing if
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they are not diligent, one can unearth examples of rigorous thinking, the use of evidence, and the
hero as the unraveller of the antagonists artifice in virtually every epoch or clime (Panek, 5).
Thus, Sherlock Holmes is a great success that Dr. Conan Doyle created. Sherlock Holmes is an
incredible thinker; he is a humble hero and a great enemy of crime. Without Sherlock Holmes,
detectives today would not exist and solve cases efficiently.

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Citation:

Delamater, Jerome and Ruth Prigozy, eds. Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction.
New York: Praeger, 1997.
Doyle, A.C. (1892) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes London, England: George Newnes Ltd.

Konnikova, Maria. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. New York: Viking, 2013.
Print.

Binyon, T.J. "Murder Will Out": The Detective in Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1989. 9-12. Print.

Conan Doyle, Arthur. The Sign of the Four. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2013. Kindle
eBook. Online.

Panek, Leroy. An Introduction to the Detective Story. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State
University Popular Press, 1987. Print.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. Mr. Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. 12 July
2008. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.