Detailed Descriptions in Short Stories About Sherlock Holmes

Categories: Holmes

Doyle not only uses detailed descriptions when describing scenery but also, when introducing a character that has come to seek help from Sherlock Holmes. ‘ her face all drawn and grey, with restless frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal’ and’ her expression weary and haggard’, here we can see how Doyle creates detailed descriptions by the use of adjectives we can also see, how observant the narrator is. Doyle frequently uses convoluted expressions when introducing his stories, for example ‘The Speckled Band’ is an example of how he uses them in his writing.

‘In glancing over my notes of the seventy odd cases in which I have, during my last eight years, studied the methods of my friend, Sherlock Holmes,’……. fantastic’, the use of a convoluted expression in the very first paragraph of the story adds a sense of complexity and mystery, making Doyle’s stories more appealing to his audience, who were high class, well educated Victorians. We can also tell that Holmes and his associate have worked together on over ‘seventy odd cases’, this also tells us that they are experienced in what they are doing.

The Sherlock Holmes stories are mostly introduced by setting a scene and then a victim of a crime comes to see Holmes in search of help. Holmes listens to and absorbs there stories and is observant about the character and what they say. For example in the ‘Solitary Cyclist’, when Miss Violet Smith comes to share her story with Holmes, we can see just how observant he is.

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He ‘took the lady’s un-gloved hand and examined it with as close an attention and as little sentiment as a scientist would show to a specimen’ From simply looking at her hand Holmes is able to conclude that Miss Smith ‘is a musician’.

This shows us that Holmes is always one step ahead of the reader because he is always able to conclude and analyse information far more quickly than his audience making him a typical detective. Another example would be in the ‘Speckled Band’. ‘No but I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm of your left glove’. In Helen Stoner’s case, Holmes is already aware of what type of transport she took to arrive at his apartment, before she evens tells him. He observes her outfit and the state it’s in and the ‘second half of a return ticket in the palm of’, her left glove.

The stories are often introduced in this way to add a sense of excitement. Most detective stories start with a calm and warm scene, and then a problem strikes the calm atmosphere, drawing you into the story as you become more interlocked with the story line. All Conan Doyle’s stories seem to share this factor making them typical of the detective genre. An example of, this would be in ‘The Beryl Coronet’ when Alexander Holder comes down the street like a ‘madman’. Straight away we are alerted and, question why a madman is coming down the street. This engages the reader making them question what is happening.

In ‘The Speckled Band’, when Helen Stoner comes to see Holmes unannounced and wearing black and a ‘veil’ over her face, we immediately become focussed to what is happening as we wonder why there is an unannounced woman in the sitting room, looking like a widow. In addition, the characters in the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories always seem to be disturbed or shocked in some way, as they are often seeking guidance or help from Sherlock Holmes. This is typical of all the characters in the detective genre, as they are often lost, scared, or unaware what to do next.

In the’ Speckled Band’ Helen comes to see Sherlock Holmes in clothes suited for a funeral, a ‘veil’ covering her face represents mystery and suspense. She is afraid that her sister was killed the night before her wedding day and that she is destined for the same fate. She wants Sherlock Holmes to guide her; she seems very lost, unaware of what to do. ‘She…. her face all drawn and grey… was weary and haggard’ form this we can tell she has suffered a great peril. Here Doyle’s use of adjectives and similes is very effective of creating an image of a woman who is grieving; over a great loss so much that she seems to be ageing in appearance.

He compares her to a hunted animal, when it is being hunted by its prey and it is frightened for its life. In most of the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories we learn about the crimes and the events which transpired, when the victims come to visit Sherlock Holmes sharing of their story. In ‘The Beryl coronet’ Alexander Holder tells Sherlock Holmes about the bureau and Mary who he thinks is the ‘Sunbeam in’ his household and about his son’s ‘Debts’. In ‘The Speckled Band’, we learn about Julia Stoners mysterious death and her last words ”oh, my God Helen!

It was the band! .The speckled band! ‘ We also learn about the whistling she would hear at all hours of the night. Victims narrating their stories to the detective are very common in detective fiction, as it is a chance for them to help the detective, by giving him all of the information they know. But the victims in the stories are not the only ones who are able to narrate, because there are multiple narratives. For example in ‘The Beryl Coronet’, Dr. Watson introduces the story and Alexander Holder gives us a detailed account of the crime.

After the victim is done retelling there story, Watson takes over and resumes telling the story at the end, alongside Holmes who gives a detailed evaluation of the crime. We can see this very clearly in the Solitary cyclist, ‘On referring to my notebook foe the year 1895, I find that it was upon Saturday, April 23rd, that we first heard of Miss Violet Smith. ‘. Here we can see exactly how he begins retelling the stories, giving facts and opinions. We can also see that Sherlock Holmes is often busy solving other cases when victims come to see him, showing us that he has a reputation for what he does.

At the end of ‘The Beryl Coronet’ we can clearly see how Holmes begins evaluating the crime giving every single detail. He talks about how ‘Arthur, went to bed after his interview’, ‘but he slept badly on account of his uneasiness about his club debts’ and how he was woken up by ‘a soft tread’ passing is door’. This is a good example of how Holmes evaluates the stories because it shows how he never leaves a detail out; he also retells the occurrences of the crime in chronological order. Holmes does this because it is like explaining to the reader what transpired and how justice came about.

There are many clues given to us, throughout the stories. Most are concrete and easy to follow, some abstract and not so straightforward, the rest are red herrings to mislead us in our path of solving the mystery. An example of an abstract clue would be in the ‘Beryl Coronet’ when Arthur Holder is answerable to the crime, Sherlock Holmes knows that he isn’t the villain but doesn’t have proof straight away. Later on we find out that Sir George Burnwell and Mary, are the real culprits and that Arthur was just trying to shield the woman he loved from harm.

‘Twice my boy has asked her to marry him, for he loves her devotedly, but each time she has refused him. ‘ this tells us that Arthur Holder is so much in love with Mary that even when she rejects him he still wants to risk imprisonment for her. We don’t really see this as a clue at the beginning, but only when we begin to evaluate what happened in the story, does it become clear. This is a significant abstract clue because it is always rather difficult for the reader to pick up on such clues, unlike the detective who is always one step ahead of the reader.

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Detailed Descriptions in Short Stories About Sherlock Holmes. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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