Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in’ The adventures of Sherlock Holmes’, explored the dynamics of the Victorian London and brought to the fore the aspects of modernity and logic. The tremendous success attributed to Sherlock Holmes can be traced to the literary awareness espoused by the author as well as the exquisite manner in which he integrated the narration to the characterization of his literary works. Born of an Irish painter who had a passion for fantasy scenes, the highly imaginative and logic driven texts espouse a soft spot for the imaginary world. However, his works are not based on mere fantasies and oscillations but elicit a kind of relativity to the normal life capturing the Victorian London. In truth, Doyle’s literary works, and especially ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’, go beyond what really happens in life and exalts the literary artist and the works produced there-on, projecting them as mirrors via which the society is perceived and evaluated (Hitchens, pgs 25-27).
In a cunning manner, the use of Dr. Watson as the narrator is probably an elicitation of the tendencies and lifestyles of many who passively live in the society with less appreciation of the going-ons beyond the confines of their superficial perceptions of the world and the complexities of human co-existence. Judging by the rousing appreciation the texts elicited from the audience, Doyle had unanimously erected the foundations of short stories as a major form of art and cut himself a niche as the king of successful short story author (Freeman, pg 240). A candid examination of ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ ought to encompass a multifaceted approach informed by his writing; ranging from his life, the uniqueness and carefully tailored texts, the reflections of the society in the texts through to the factors that influenced him into writing and the eventual adoption of characters and themes illustrated there-on.
Individual success is gauged in the parameters of personal achievements and field of excellence, and for Doyle it has to be in story writing rather than his doctoral career. Born of a humble background, Doyle was introduced into the artistic world through his father’s paintings. The painting was an art in the Victorian London though it could not make enough money for family sustenance and thus his father enrolled him into an English school in London. This offered him a chance to scale the heights of academic success which saw him pursue medicine as a career and become a naval doctor before entering into private practice.
His initial works were motivated by the availability of time. They also marked the introduction of the mystery-solving Sherlock Holmes as the main character (Jenkins, pgs 37-69). Though his initial works which also revolved around the mystery solving “Sherlock Holmes did not achieve instant success, as compared to the short stories published later with Sherlock as the main character. The short stories were written at a time in which he had switched from mainstream doctoring and decided to venture in dentistry which ostensibly gave Doyle more time to write. In addition, his intelligent and logical approach to the mysteries was informed by his admiration of a colleague, Dr. Joseph Bell, who modeled the Holmes character.
The characterization and thematic explorations go a long way in ensuring efficiency and effectiveness of message delivery. Since the introduction of the phenomenal character in Sherlock Holmes in 1887, the literary works of Sir Conan Doyle have perfectly worked to unprecedented heights (Chabon, pg 23-27). Intellect and logic are the anchors of Doyle’s literary works and to a large extent they identify the ‘amateur’ private detective- Sherlock Holmes. The use of scientific methods of observation and critical deduction is established as the approach used by Sherlock Holmes to solve the mysteries that come his way at a fee.
In addition, the brilliance of Sherlock is contrasted with the plain and narrow perceptions of Dr. Watson, a character that the readership’s level of appreciation of the mystery at hand can be likened. In addition, the ability of Doyle to involve the readership in his writing, whether it is an historical adventure, a science fiction work or a supernatural literary text make him a superb story teller if not author. Indeed, so popular was Sherlock Holmes that his attempts to kill him in ‘The Final Problem’ were met with outrage and calls for his reinstatement.
The adventures of Sherlock Holmes had tremendous impacts to the literary scene. The form of narration which used Dr. Watson is particularly a point of concern for most enthusiasts as well as critics of his works. The works revolve on a well tailored setting which encompasses the Victorian London. In addition, the fact that most of their success was attained during the rise of Authors such as Charles Dickens, J. H Mackay, Oscar Wilde, Morris William, John Ruskin and many more. In addition, the contribution of Doyle to the rise of the detective genre and investigative serialization is quite insurmountable.
In retrospect, Dr. Watson attributes the rise of the detective genre to Sherlock Holmes by statements like ‘indeed, apart from the nature of the investigation which my friend had on hand, there was something in his masterly grasp of a situation, and his keen, incisive reasoning, which made it a pleasure to me to study his system of work, and to follow the quick, subtle methods by which he disentangled the most inextricable mysteries’ (Swaim, pgs 33-35). The birth of the detective genre though did not go down well with all people. Critics had their field day in pointing the gaps of the literature produced especially the fact that Sherlock Holmes was a splendid and brilliant character and in reality Dr. Watson should have some ideas rather than the gullibility he posits.
The Sherlock Holmes works reflected the Victorian society. Aspects of nobility and the quest for financial prominence have been entwined in the rise for modernity (represented by the rise of London as an urban centre) and the social evils expected. Doyle achieves tremendous success in the modification of the Sherlock Holmes by the manner in which he allows to co-exist in all realms of social classes and his cross cutting interactions with all persons. The fact that he solves problems even from the noble and for the lowly provides a foundation for appreciation from persons of all walks of life. Doyle is able to expound the fast growth of the population in London, the increase in crime and evil in the populace as well as delve into the ruling class which he projects as humane after all and prone to errors as exemplified by Count Von Kramm in A Scandal in Bohemia.
In addition, Sherlock Holmes brings to the fore the dark undercurrents of the London city, providing a mix of fascinations and mysteries and attracting the readers through the perfected use of logic and intelligence (Kehoe, pg 13). Sherlock Holmes provides Doyle with the perfect atmosphere to explore how good and evil co-exist in the society. In addition, the fact that Britain had a well established law system does not escape Doyle and he uses this as a gauge either to validate or vilify the activities he is about to indulge in. His vivid description of the city of London and the extensive and powerful British Empire makes Doyle’s work a perfect literary device and exalts his position as a popular author.
To conclude, the fact that Doyle’s’ success came against the backdrop of his career and was prompted by the short stories rather than the novels he wrote might be a recipe for two assumptions. One; the medical career was probably not his career thus his intellect would have been more useful if he had indulged in writing from the onset, and secondly, that the short stories were more popular in Victorian London than the novels. Which ever way, Sherlock Holmes stories were so powerful that they established a niche and retained it for long. To extrapolate the momentous achievements of Doyle, his works especially the characterization of Sherlock Holmes has precipitated adoptions in films and movies.