The Adventure of the Yellow Face: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

If someone you loved asked you to trust them, would you? Our gut says yes, but it's another story when you know there is information being withheld. In this lesson, we'll discuss the short story, 'The Adventure of the Yellow Face' by Arthur Conan Doyle, and learn how quickly trust can break.


They say secrets don't make friends, and that's definitely the case when it comes to the bonds of marriage. What would you do if your spouse had a secret and refused to tell you? Read on to learn about a man put in that exact situation in the short story, ''The Adventure of the Yellow Face'' by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Gone to Pieces

Detective Sherlock Holmes and his business associate, friend, and narrator of the story, Dr. Watson, return home from a walk to hear that a man was impatiently waiting their return. After a short time, Mr. Grant 'Jack' Munro, physically tired and upset, walks through Holmes' door. He desperately wants Holmes' advice, saying his life has ''gone to pieces,'' but he's embarrassed to discuss the details because they are about his wife Effie. Munro says he's been married for three years, and there have been no problems. But his wife has become distant over the last week, and he wants to know why. Holmes agrees to help.

The Face in the Window

Effie was previously married to a man in Georgia, but the man and their child died of yellow fever. She moved back to England, met Munro, and got married. When they were married, Effie insisted that Munro, or Jack as she calls him, take all of her money, and he reluctantly did. Recently, Effie asked Jack for 100 pounds of her money, but she would not say why.

The money wasn't the only red flag. Jack also noticed someone moving into a cottage close by their home after almost a year vacancy. As he passed the house, he noticed an ''unnatural and inhuman'' face in an upstairs window. He went to the door to investigate. A woman answered. Jack offered his assistance, but the woman rudely sent him away.

That night, he awoke to find his wife sneaking out of the house. When she returned, he questioned her, but the response was she simply needed some air, yet her nervous actions and tone made Jack feel otherwise. They became awkward around each other the next day, so Jack went out for a walk. On his way home, he passed the cottage as Effie was walking out the door.

Both Jack and Effie were taken aback as she tried to explain she was there introducing herself. Jack immediately accused her of being there during the night, but Effie reassured him she wasn't. Jack pushed past her and said he would get the truth out of the owners, but Effie begged and pleaded for him not to enter, to trust her just this once. Jack agreed, if this was the last secret she would keep between them and that her secret trips would cease. As they walked away, he saw the face in the window.

A few days passed, and Jack came home from work to find his wife missing; he immediately headed for the cottage. He burst into the house without knocking. No one was there, but he found a picture of his wife in the room where he saw the face. He went home and demanded answers from Effie. She refused to speak.


Holmes asks a few questions and tells Munro to wire him if he sees anyone in the cottage. If there is no activity, Holmes and Watson will visit tomorrow.

After Munro leaves, Holmes tells Watson he believes there is blackmail involved and that Effie's first husband is in that cottage. He believes the ex-husband came down with a disease of some kind, and Effie fled back to England and changed her name. The man found her and is blackmailing her for money.

Not long after their conversation did Munro send word that the house is occupied. Holmes and Watson take the train to meet Munro. Munro wants to enter the house, and while Holmes reminds him of the legal issues of breaking and entering, he agrees it's the right thing to do.

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