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Amanda Macaraeg
Writing 37
Dr. Haas
6 November 2014
A Different Detective
Sherlock Holmes was born a normal human being just like you and me, but what exactly
makes him such a significant individual? Conan Doyle, an author during the Victorian Era, wrote
56 short stories and four novels about the famous detective: Sherlock Holmes. Literary scholars
perceive Holmes to be an idiosyncratic detective. Deviating from the norm, he has many
eccentricities and an unusual knowledge foundation. He also has excellent observational and
deductive skills that aid him in solving his cases. 1These different attributes are what make
Holmes a distinctive individual. Doyle created the character of Sherlock Holmes with important
conventions that make him a unique detective.
2One

convention that literary scholars address is the detective’s eccentricities. In an

excerpt from the 3scholarly text Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction, Delamater and
Prigozy discuss the typical conventions of the detective genre and the specific qualities that
Sherlock Holmes 4had. “During periods of intellectual boredom, [Holmes] uses cocaine” (22).
5Delamater

and Prigozy draw attention to Holmes’s atypical habits, which are also analyzed in

Leroy Panek’s scholarly text “Doyle.” In this 6text, 7Panek explains Doyle’s method of making
Poe’s detective character his own: but more specifically, how Doyle “drew back from Poe’s
concept of genius… and made him [Holmes] a cocaine addict” (76). 8Holmes’s eccentricities are
acknowledged in both of these scholarly texts. Delamater, Prigozy, and Panek can agree that
Holmes uses cocaine. Delamater and Prigozy explicitly include that Holmes uses drugs during

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his leisure time. Panek, on the other hand, emphasizes Doyle’s decision to stray away from the
typical “genius” detective and to make Sherlock Holmes unique— thus making him a cocaine
addict. Throughout Doyle’s works, Holmes’s drug addiction is mentioned every so often. 9In one
of the short stories “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes and his trusted sidekick Watson work
together in solving a case that involves seizing a photograph that Irene Adler planned to use as
blackmail against the King of Bohemia. Just as all of Doyle’s short stories begin, the two men
first start out in their apartment at 221B Baker Street, discussing their lives and their
observations of one another. “Holmes… remained in our lodgings in Baker Street… and
alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and
the fierce energy of his own keen nature” (A Scandal in Bohemia). This excerpt exemplifies
Holmes’s drug usage as a result of 10boredom. When he is not on the job, Holmes is typically
alone in his apartment, injecting himself with cocaine. 11This eccentricity differentiates Holmes
from all other detectives.
Aside from strange habits involving a 7-percent solution, Sherlock Holmes was created
with the convention of an uncommon knowledge foundation. As mentioned in the scholarly text
Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction, “[Holmes’s] knowledge… is eccentric, is some
areas highly detailed and in others demonstrating astonishing ignorance and indifference”
(Delamater and Prigozy 22). On the other hand, “Murder Will Out” by TJ Binyon discusses
Sherlock Holmes’s unique characteristics. “Watson describes Holmes’s knowledge of literature
as non-existent; yet Holmes is soon quoting Goethe and Flaubert” (22). When the two texts are
juxtaposed with one another, they both address Holmes’s knowledge basis. Delamater and
Prigozy mention the topic broadly while Binyon specifically talks about Holmes’s literary
comprehension. At first, he is known to have no literary knowledge at all; however, later on he is

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able to refer to few specific works. Panek’s scholarly text provides evidence for Delamater and
Prigozy’s text that Holmes only obtains knowledge about certain subjects. In Chapter 2 of A
Study in Scarlet, Watson and Holmes are still new apartment mates and Watson continues to
learn more about the peculiar Holmes. “’The skilful workman… will have nothing but the tools
which may help him in doing his work… It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic
walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition
of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance,
therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones’” (A Study in Scarlet). In this
quotation, Holmes explains his theory of obtaining knowledge. He believes that a man of
proficient work ethics will only acquire knowledge that will be of use to him— all other
information would just be a waste of space. This knowledge basis is addressed in both scholarly
texts: although he doesn’t know much about literature, his knowledge capacity flourishes with
detailed amounts of information that would be of use to him. Holmes’s general knowledge is
sparse while his specialized knowledge is exceedingly comprehensive.
One final convention that Doyle created with Sherlock Holmes was excellent
observational and deductive skills. TJ Binyon states that Holmes is “exercising his deductive
flair not on clients, but on objects belonging to them” (Murder Will Out11). He is able to deduce
different hypotheses about a person just by observing his/her belongings. Delamater and Prigozy
explain “Holmes’s inquiry, purely epistemological, bases itself on empirical data” (Theory and
Practice of Classic Detective Fiction 22). Although the two excerpts exemplify two different
aspects of the topic, they are complements of one another. Delamater and Prigozy’s statement is
a result of Binyon’s: because Holmes uses his observational skills on objects to infer different
things about its’ owner, his deductions are solely based on reasoning. They may seem difficult to

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understand at first, but there is reasoning behind all of his deductions. In “Silver Blaze,” another
story in Doyle’s short story collection, Holmes and Watson try to solve the mystery of the
disappearing horse, Silver Blaze, and the unexpected death of its’ owner, John Straker. “’But in
examining his belongings I was fortunate enough to discover not only the method of the crime,
but even its motives… I at once concluded that Straker was leading a double life, and keeping a
second establishment. The nature of the bill showed that there was a lady in the case, and one
who had expensive tastes’” (Silver Blaze). When first explaining his method of deduction,
Holmes states that he was about to deduce different things about Straker just by observing the
items found with him at the scene of his death. This shows that Holmes has good observational
and deductive skills because he is able to come to conclusions about different people just by
looking at their personal belongings. Both scholarly texts support this quotation because they
explain Holmes’s scientific approach when it comes to solving a case: he observes and then
deduces.
Overall, Sherlock Holmes is a character of unique traits. Different conventions that
Conan Doyle created with Holmes consist of strange habits, an unusual knowledge basis, and a
scientific approach to solve cases. These conventions are what have made the detective character
(as well as the detective genre as a whole) so intriguing to the reader. Although Sherlock
Holmes’s first appearance dates all the way back to the 1800’s, these character conventions have
continued to appeal to different audiences throughout the decades.

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Works Cited
Binyon, T.J. "Murder Will Out": The Detective in Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1989. 9-12. Print.
Delamater, Jerome and Ruth Prigozy, eds. Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction.
New York: Praeger, 1997.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. "Adventure 1: “A Scandal in Bohemia”." The Memoirs of Sherlock
Holmes. Lit2Go Edition. 1892. Web.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. "Adventure 1: “Silver Blaze”." The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Lit2Go
Edition. 1894. Web.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet. eBook. 12 July 2008. Web.
Panek, Leroy. “Doyle.” An Introduction to the Detective Story. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling
Green State University Popular Press, 1987. PDF File.

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Question the essay is answering: What do the literary scholars say are some of the most
important conventions that Conan Doyle created with Sherlock Holmes that has made the
detective genre appealing to all readers?
According to the literary scholars, some of the most important conventions that Conan
Doyle created with Sherlock Holmes that has made the detective genre appealing to all
readers are his eccentricities and excellent observational and deductive skills that aid him
in solving his cases.
These points fit together because they are both traits that were given to Holmes by Doyle.
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Holmes has eccentricities

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Holmes has good scientific deduction skills