Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle: Summary & Explanation

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  • 0:00 Sherlock Holmes
  • 1:20 Companions Of Sherlock Holmes
  • 2:30 Sherlocks' Deductions
  • 6:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote several novels throughout his lifetime, none of his works were as well-received as his series of 'Sherlock Holmes' stories in which he created the famous, logical detective with his level-headed assistant, Doctor Watson.

Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a compilation of twelve short Sherlock Holmes stories that was published on October 31st, 1892, and written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The character, Sherlock Holmes, was previously introduced to the world in a novel called A Study in Scarlet, in a Christmas 'annual.'

Sherlock Holmes is probably the most well-known and -loved fictional detective in literature. It's interesting to note that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually modeled his famous detective after an associate, Dr. Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell had a long, thin nose - much as we picture Sherlock Holmes - and was very observant. He also used strong deductive skills.

This leads us to the personality of the character, Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is a private detective who has keen powers of observation. He lives at 221b Baker Street in London. He notices things that others simply don't and then he draws accurate conclusions about what he sees. In Doyle's first Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, Holmes describes himself as someone who gets in the dumps at times and '(doesn't) open (his) mouth for days on end.' He experiences strong mood swings. He also plays the violin. But most of all, he is a master of deductive reasoning.

Companions of Sherlock Holmes

Doctor Watson is important to the Sherlock Holmes stories for several reasons. First, he is a patient companion to Holmes, whose brilliant, yet eccentric personality would drive some people crazy.

Watson enjoys the challenge of solving crimes and is almost always close at hand as Sherlock's roommate. Probably most importantly, Doctor Watson, the narrator, provides detailed written accounts of Sherlock's adventures for the readers to enjoy. However, Doctor Watson simply does not have the skills that Holmes has and he is often questioning Holmes as to how he comes to his brilliant conclusions. This is a perfect writing tool for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Sherlock must always explain his discoveries to Watson, in turn, actually explaining them to the reader.

The character Irene Adler only appears in one of the stories in Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, called A Scandal in Bohemia. She is an American opera singer and has a less-than-virtuous reputation. However, her wits seem to match those of Sherlock Holmes - even escaping capture at the end of A Scandal in Bohemia - and he admires her for this. It's important to note, over time, adaptations have made Adler a love interest for Holmes. However, there is no real evidence to this.

Sherlocks' Deductions

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes contains twelve separate Holmes stories. Let's examine a few of them to take a look at Sherlock Holmes' deductions.

First, we'll take a look at The Adventure of the Speckled Band. This is a story that reveals the sinister plot of a greedy stepfather, Dr. Roylott, who kills one of his two stepdaughters and then attempts to kill the other. Sherlock Holmes steps in to try and solve the mystery before the second stepdaughter, Helen, dies.

As it turns out, Holmes uses his sharp powers of observation to notice details in Helen's dead sister's room, such as a bed that is nailed to the floor and a rope that is hanging near her bed that should call servants, but doesn't work. He also notices a vent that opens to her stepfather's room next door instead of going outside. In the end, it's discovered that the 'speckled band' is actually a trained swamp adder - a deadly snake - that, thanks to Holmes and Watson's intervention, ends up killing Dr. Roylott, instead of Helen.

Next, let's take a look at the story The Red-Headed League. This is a tale involving a pawnbroker named Wilson who has red hair. He enlists Holmes's help because he joins a club, 'The League of Red-Headed Men,' which employs red-headed men, paying them very well. He is upset because it simply closed its doors after some weeks and he's afraid that he has been proven a fool and wants to get to the bottom of it all. Holmes promises to help.

It seems that a co-worker of Wilson's, a man named Spaulding, first encouraged Wilson to apply to the club. Holmes interviews Spaulding, who has some mysterious marks on the knees of his trousers. Holmes discovers that the club is just a ploy to get Wilson out of his pawnshop for enough time each day to allow Spaulding and his cohort to dig a tunnel to the bank behind Wilson's shop. Holmes, Watson, a Scotland Yard detective, and the bank manager are able to thwart the attempted robbery by catching Spaulding as he breaks through the bank floor.

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