Professor Moriarty in The Final Problem: Character Analysis

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Professor Moriarty is the biggest criminal Holmes has ever faced. The fate of the infamous detective is determined in a final, face-to-face with the 'Napoleon of crime.'

The Perfect Professor

Professor Moriarty is Sherlock Holmes's most challenging adversary. He emerges in 'The Adventure of the Final Problem' as Holmes's last adventure with Dr. Watson, who narrates the tale with a 'heavy heart' because Professor Moriarty is responsible for the death of Sherlock Holmes. How can Sherlock Holmes die? He's the Superman of late 19th century crime detection! Unfortunately for Sherlock Holmes, he couldn't fly. At any rate, Professor Moriarty is not only Holmes's most challenging adversary, he's the most compelling antagonist that Holmes has faced.

The Unknown Adversary

As Watson serves as the narrator for the tales and adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the information available about the characters and villains that Holmes faces is offered to the reader through the detailed writing of Dr. Watson. In 'The Final Problem' Sherlock Holmes has returned to London to get Watson's help with a most challenging adversary. Watson has never heard of Professor Moriarty, and in response to this Holmes states:

'The man pervades London, and no one has heard of him. That's what puts him on a pinnacle in the records of crime.'

Moriarty, who proves to be Holmes's greatest nemesis, is unknown in the criminal circuit, yet Holmes has discovered his influence, despite its subtlety. This detail offers the significance of Moriarty as Holmes's equal. Holmes is renowned for his abilities as a detective. Moriarty is exactly the opposite. He is a clever criminal mastermind that nobody has heard of except for his abilities in mathematics. Nobody knows he's responsible for the organization of the criminal underbelly throughout Europe. Holmes knows, and he tells Watson:

'. . .if I could beat that man, if I could free society of him, I should feel that my own career had reached its summit, and I should be prepared to turn to some more placid line in life.'

The Deplorable Genius

Moriarty's entrance into crime or as a criminal mastermind is really no fault of his own. According to Holmes, Moriarty has 'hereditary diabolical tendencies' and that a 'criminal strain ran in his blood,' which is one of the few moments that Holmes provides an analysis of someone without offering information to back it up. Perhaps that's the fault of Watson for leaving those details out.

What does make Moriarty a deplorable genius is that he actually is a genius. At 21-years-old, Moriarty's Binomial Theorem got him a position as a mathematical chair at a small university. Clearly, his intelligence is to be equal or even greater than Holmes's. Again, Holmes admits his adversaries capabilities. He says to Watson:

'I had at last met an antagonist who was my intellectual equal.'

The Epic Rival

Sherlock Holmes has rarely offered praise for any of his rivals, but Moriarty is different. Moriarty is the rival that Holmes has been waiting for his entire career. Moriarty is the challenge that gives Holmes the personal proof that he is the greatest detective of all time. Holmes even states:

'Never have I risen to such a height, and never have I been so hard pressed by an opponent.'

Holmes has worked diligently to set his trap to capture Moriarty and the highest ranking members of his criminal enterprise. However, the police are certainly no match for Moriarty who evades capture. It is entirely up to Holmes to end Moriarty's criminal career. And this will be no easy feat, as Holmes describes Moriarty as the following:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account