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Mar 1

Cameron Mar
Professor Haas
Writing 37
5 November 2014
The Detective Genre and Doyle
Although he didnt realize it in 1887 when he published his first Sherlock Holmes story,
A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle was about to become the father of one of the greatest
innovators in the detective genre, which is still one of the most popular literary genres today.
Many scholars have praised Doyles stories, but specific scholars include information on who
influenced Doyle in his writing. Other scholars have also discussed the conventions of the
detective genre and how they made this genre so popular. George Doves article called A
Different Story discusses the conventions a detective story must have to be considered one.
Leroy Paneks article Doyle states how Doyles stories became popular and how Poe has
influenced him. Because of his importance to the genre, many scholars have praised and
analyzed Doyles stories. Leroy Paneks chapter Beginnings in his book, An Introduction to
the Detective Story, discusses the Victorian Era. Jerome Delamater in his book, Theory and
Practice of Classic Detective Fiction, talks about Holmess character. Binyons short article A
short excerpt from T.J. Binyons book, Murder Will Out, covers a small array of topics
pertaining to Holmes and the detective genre. Even though these three scholars state different
ideas write about different topics pertaining to Sherlock Holmes and the detective genre, all of
their articles make up the detective genre and Doyle himself they can all agree upon Watsons
creation as a core convention to the detective story.

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One of the many topics that these scholars chose to write about are the conventions of the
detective genre. Dove states how the main character is a detective (Dove 10). This convention
should be obvious and is essential to the genre itself since we are dealing with a mystery.
Although Panek doesnt explicitly discuss the conventions used in detective novels, I believe he
would add onto Doves first point by developing the detective into a mathematically accurate
crime-solving machine in order to expand the definition of a detective into that of a
machine (Panek 82). Rather than be a humanly detective, Panek sees the detective more as an
infallible machine. Doves second point states that the main plot of the story is the account of
the investigation and resolution (Dove 10). Because the plot involves the need to investigate
and resolve a problem, a detective as the main character is even more essential. It would be
difficult for this mystery to be solved without a detective solving it. Doves third and fourth point
is that the mystery is no ordinary problem but a complex secret that appears impossible of
solution and also the solving of the mystery must be known to the reader (Dove 10). These
two conventions make the detective story the most interesting to the reader. The complexity of
the mystery is a puzzle for readers to try and solve themselves, but Doves last point that the
answer to the mystery must be known to the reader ensures anybody reading the story that the
mystery will be solved. Without the stress of reading the book to try and figure out the solution
to the problem, readers are able to relax while they read through a detective novel. This occurs in
Doyles short story Silver Blaze at the end: You have explained all but one thing, cried the
Colonel (24). Holmes does explain that last thing after this quote, but this quote displays how
every detective story ends with the reader knowing the answer to the mystery.
A topic mentioned extensively by Panek and briefly by Binyon is the inspiration for
Holmes. Panek states that Doyle based Holmes off of Poes abstract idea of the detective

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(Panek 80). As stated by Binyon from Murder Will Out, Doyle took that detective and fleshed
out both the main figure and his surroundings (9). Poes detective was named Dupin and he was
classified as a man of reason rather than emotion. In the beginnings of the Sherlock Holmes
series, the reader reads that Holmess behavior is rather unemotional. This can be cited in
Doyles short story A Scandal in Bohemia when Watson is talking about Holmess admiration
for Irene Adler: All emotionswere abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced
mind (A Scandal in Bohemia 1). Like Dupin, Holmes believes that emotions are repugnant and
that the only thing he really needs is his precise but admirably balanced mind. Binyon does
counter this point by adding how almost immediately human traits began to creep in as seen at
the end of A Scandal in Bohemia (Binyon 10). After Holmes had been outsmarted by Irene
Adler, he shows his admiration for her by always giving her the honourable title of the woman
when he speaks of her (A Scandal in Bohemia 20). The reader can see Holmes transform in this
story from a man without emotions into one who admires a worthy adversary. Just as Binyon
stated, Holmes had begun showing human traits very early in the stories even if Doyle
intended for Holmes to be a Dupin of the Victorian Age.
Doyle has also stated that many motifs in the Holmes stories depend on Poe (Panek
80). Police versus the amateur detective is a prevalent motif throughout all of the Holmes stories.
This can be seen when Holmes is talking about Inspector Gregory in Silver Blaze: Inspector
Gregoryis an extremely competent officer. Were he but gifted with imagination he might rise
to great heights in his profession (Silver Blaze 6). This displays the struggle between the police
and Holmes, the amateur detective. Holmes acknowledges Gregorys abilities as an investigator,
but knows that his own imagination is what makes him superior to Gregory. Gregory will only
look at the evidence on the surface and wont make conjectures or assumptions that could be

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wrong or that could lead the police to the real culprit. The police during that day needed to
practice what Binyon refers to as SherlockHolmitos, which is inferring qualities about certain
people or things in order to come to a conclusion on the subject. Whether these conjectures are
proven incorrect, it is the repetition of making assumptions that will improve ones own ability to
deduce like Holmes.
A subject that Panek displays much expertise on is the rise in popularity of the detective
genre. Panek describes how Holmes takes a high hand with the nabobs and robber barons who
come to him and, in general, concentrates on the problems of the modest middle-class (Panek
76). Because Holmes treated the powerful the same as anyone else and focused almost solely on
the issues presented by the middle-class, many of the bourgeois during the Victorian Age were
able to relate more to the story. For the middle class, who were neglected in real life by the
ineffective policemen, reading about a detective who would assist the middle class the most
made Holmes a popular character among them because most crime fiction novels before would
usually deal with the problems of the rich and powerful (Panek 76).
All these smaller ideas are what make the detective genre what it is today and continues
Doyles legacy as a huge contributor to it. Even if Poe had created the roots of this genre, Doyle
was the real father of the genre. The conventions he followed enabled him to add onto the genre
by creating his own type of detective and appealing to a larger crowd of people through his
characters. Doyle is a legend in detective genre history since there still hasnt been another
author who could use Doyles methods to make a popular detective novel.

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Works Cited
Binyon, T.J. "Murder Will Out": The Detective in Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. PDF File.
Dove, George N. The Different Story. The Reader and the Detective Story. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling
Green State University Popular Press, 1997. PDF File.
Panek, Leroy. Doyle. An Introduction to the Detective Story. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State
University Popular Press, 1987. PDF File.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. "Adventure 1: A Scandal in Bohemia." The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Lit2Go
Edition. 1892. Online.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. "Adventure 1: A Scandal in Bohemia." The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Lit2Go
Edition. 1892. Online.