When we as readers encounter Mr Holmes for the first time, alongside Dr Watson, he seems to be this enigma Watson sets out to solve. Mr Holmes seems to be this all known being whose deductive skills excites everyone else’s. Despite, his extensive knowledge on nearly every subject known to mankind, there are still fields that are aliened to him. One such field is creating meaningful relationships and social interaction overall. In A Study in Scarlet (1887), Dr Watson takes it upon himself to conduct a list of supposed limits of Mr Holmes’ knowledge, this is done not long after the initial encounter:
Sherlock Holmes – his limits
Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally.
Knows nothing of practical gardening.
Knowledge of Geology. Practical, but limited.
Tells at a glance different soils from each other.
After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in
what part of London he had received them.
Knowledge of Chemistry. Profound.
Anatomy. Accurate, but unsystematic
Sensational Literature. Immense.
He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
Plays the violin well.
Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
Has a good practical knowledge of British law.’ (Doyle, A Study in Scarlet. Apple Books. pp. 37-39)
Out from this list one may assert that Dr Watson likens Mr Holmes to a superhero upon first encounter. This description of Mr Holmes is purely based on witnessing the inner workings of Mr Holmes’ mind and not mention his ability to deduct things at the turn of a dime.
In the beginning Mr Holmes seems to be a remarkable individual to Dr Watson but as he learns more of this deeply troubled man, he realises that there are pitfalls to Mr Holmes intellect. When the doctor within Watson springs to life and begins his work of stripping Mr Holmes of his unique set of skills and realises this supposed ‘superhuman’ has limits or is simply a human being with an incredible skillset a companionship blossom. The sole reason this companionship blossom into the most celebrated in literary history is because Watson is able to plant a seed of normality to the extraordinary tree that is Mr Holmes. This seed of normality Dr Watson plants reveal Mr Holmes to be more than just an ideal, suddenly he becomes a companion with whom one can argue, agree to disagree such quality makes it possible for these men to respect one another.
Moving on to Mr Holmes’ qualities which may paint him as a not so pleasant individual, these include his tendency to be impolite and impatient. The following example will exhibit Holmes’ tendency to come off as an arrogant prick. His arrogance is put centre stage when he realises, he can trace the murderer through the pills used to commit the murders. But during this consultation one of the policemen mention that they want ‘more than mere theory and preaching.’ (Doyle, A Study in Scarlet. pp. 156) Here, it is seen that Mr Holmes expect that the other detectives have arrived at the same conclusion as he and this especially prevalent when he utters the following: ‘Any delay in arresting the assassin’ might give him time to perpetrate some fresh atrocity.’ (Doyle, A Study in Scarlet. pp. 133) And, his arrogance really shines through when it comes to the revealing of the murderer: ‘Gentlemen’ let me introduce you to Mr Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Enoch Drebber and of Joseph Stangerson.’ (Doyle, A Study in Scarlet. pp. 136) Mr Holmes’ arrogance pairs perfectly with other characteristics which makes Mr Holmes somewhat easier to approach. Mr Martin A. Kayman describes the Holmes presented to one in Doyle’s iconic tales as ‘an intellectual, he [Holmes] has no cultural pretensions, and is always eager for action. He remains intimidating, frequently brusque, arrogant and aloof, but he is never morally repulsive.’ (Kayman. ‘The short story from Poe to Chesterton’ 49) He may be blunt, but he does also have a very caring side. His ability to care for other people is especially evident when comes to his clients’ family matters and his clients’ well-being overall. Through his interactions with his clients readers acknowledge the fact that Mr Holmes has a softer side and thus is not as cold as initially thought. Mr Holmes’ softer side, along with others, needs to balance to a T with his less agreeable qualities in order for Dr Watson to find Mr Holmes’ eccentricities acceptable. At times of hardship Dr Watson turns to Mr Holmes’ uncreatable mind in order to cope with how Mr Holmes behave in social situation.
The most important role of Dr Watson plays in this production is that of narrator and the character who creates a bridge between consumer and product. According to Kayman, if Mr Holmes is to eccentric for his own good, Watson may function as the negotiator between cooperation and consumer. ‘But for the reader it is of course a blessing to have a rigour of logic and the demands of science filtered through the informed admiration of our friendly intermediary.’ (Kayman. ‘The short story from Poe to Chesterton.’ 49) Watson is therefore a most important ingredients in the dish that is the tale, so interquel in fact, if he was not there the souffl? would collapse immediately. One the one hand, he is there to provide some contrast to the cleverness of Mr Holmes by both challenging him and providing constructive criticism while on the other he appreciates and admire him for his intelligence. One many argue that Dr Watson is the ideal fan. He is basically the piece of the puzzle need to give Mr Holmes a human and thus a more rounded character may emerge. Plus, if Dr Watson was not Mr Holmes may come off as to cold and calculating. In order for the audience to active participants it is of the utmost importance that the master tells his apprentice what he is doing and the methods he makes use of when solving his problems.
As far as depiction goes, Dr Watson is for the most part taking on the role of the ordinary man who may have to potential to be extraordinary. One of Watson’s most sought-after qualities is the fact that he is able to bring the best out the best in Mr Holmes. In the Hound of the Baskervilles (1902): ‘It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.’ (Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Apple Books. pp. 9) When June Thomson discusses this exact quote she writes:
As a personality, Watson may Indeed not glitter as brightly as Holmes, but nevertheless there is a warm, steady glow about him which was to illuminate their friendship as such as Holmes’ more pyrotechnic brilliance. Without it, it is doubtful if their relationship would have survived intact for all those years. (Thomson. Holmes and Watson, pp. 29)
An individual as blunt, enthusiastic and quick witted as Mr Holmes can quickly be tiring to the people around him and those who may be so luck as to bump into him, yet Dr Watson manage to keep him grounded. Same may be of the opinion that Dr Watson is the stone in which Mr Holmes waves can strike. In spite of Mr Holmes’ various addiction and demons Watson is willing to stand by Mr Holmes’ side, through thick and thin. Eventually, both men realise that neither of them is perfect and this may be reason why they work so wonderfully together. This realisation does not only return to the notion that Watson makes the best aspects of Holmes come out from their respective hiding places but also that Mr Holmes himself allows Watson to excel. The fine, delicate China that is Dr Watson is constructed by admirable qualities such as honesty, reliability and patience. These particular aspects of Dr Watson’s identity shine extra bright when Mr Holmes is having one of his impatient, childish strikes with a sprinkle of arrogance for good measure.
Another thing that contribute quite a bit to their dynamic partnership is their similarities. Despite their differences they are remarkably similar. For instance, they are both excitable and adventuress. The best example of Dr Watson’s hunger for adventure emerges when he first hears of Mr Holmes’ profession and cannot wait to assist Mr Holmes. The only way to describe Dr Watson’s excitement when hearing this news is that of a child on Christmas Eve waiting to get his/her presents. Equally important is his former career as an army doctor which has taken him far and wide, plus it means that he has seen his fair share of death and destruction. In A Study in Scarlet he even remarks ‘I object to rows because my nerves are shaken’ (A Study in Scarlet, 26) Giving his time in Iraq he is not afraid of violence, this is especially prevalent when Stamford tells him that Mr Holmes is in the middle of ‘beating the subjects in the dissecting-rooms with a stick’ (A Study in Scarlet, 19) Dr Watson may not seem particularly faced by violence but he does sleep with his service revolver which is taken out if need be and as Mycroft observes simply by studying Watson’s left hand when he is under pressure: ‘You’re not haunted by the war, Dr Watson’ You miss it.’ (A Study in Pink, 38:45) On the contrary, Mr Holmes has applied his supreme intellect and knack for solving crime in order to deal with individuals of a certain nature and sticky situation on the daily.
In one specific case where Mr Holmes and Dr Watson accompany each other perfectly is when it comes to their fascination bordering on addiction to crime and adventure. In the newest adoration of the famous pair, there is a rather intriguing chat when they leave a crime scene, more specifically the scene of Mrs Jennifer Wilson murder:
Sherlock: You’re a doctor. Actually, You’re an army doctor.
Sherlock: Any good?
John: Very good.
Sherlock: Seen a lot of injuries, then. Violent deaths.
John: Well, yes.
Sherlock: Bit of trouble too, I bet?
John: Of course. Yes. Enough for a lifetime. Far too much.
Sherlock: Want to see some more.
John: Oh, God, yes. (Study in Pink 16:09)
This little chat shows us to men who has found common ground and this commonality will be the foundation for a beautiful friendship. The central thing that brings these men together is their excitement and the thrill of solving the crime.
John Watson is as important as Mr Holmes, one may even argue without him the duo would not work. And, Mrs April Toadvine describes Dr Watson’s importance wonderfully by writing as follows:
Classic movie and television depictions of Holmes and Watson have focused on Holmes as the intellectual superior of a slower-witted, almost buffoonish Watson, as indelibly portrayed in a series of movies in the 1940s by Nigel Bruce. In more recent portrayals, however, Watson has changed; most notable BBC Sherlock (2010-) portrays John as similar to John, so similar in fact, that they share personality traits. (Toadvine 2012. pp. 48-49)
The companionship of these beloved characters a akin to that of a superhero and his sidekick. Such partnerships are based on the notion that the hero does all the thinking and the sidekick asks questions, much like a father and his son or a master and his apprentice and act amazed when the hero finally reach his conclusion. With the changes in crime fiction this concept has prevailed, but the sidekick has gotten more opportunities throughout crime fictions history.
In Doyle’s original Watson is described as being a middle-class man. As Mrs Toadvine puts it, he is far from a buffoon but rather clever and proof that a middle-class man can achieve greatness. One interesting thing to not is that his professional title of doctor is used more often to refer to him than his actual name. Plus, the title itself indicate that he is an educated man with something between his ears. On top of this, he has served in the army and the occupation of serviceman proves quite so helpful when helping Mr Holmes in stressful situations. Watson also has a keen interest in science and progress, this specific field of interest makes Dr Watson able to appreciate Holmes’ expertise. Watson is far from a genius, but he is off average intellect and thus accts as the moral compass of the duo. Combining all these qualities makes Watson a superb representative of the everyman of Victorian England. Watson may not be a medical specialist but a general practitioner of medicine whereas Mr Holmes does not fit into normal categories of professional. (Toadvine 2012 52) In short, Dr Watson is the perfect good cop to Mr Homes’ bad one. He may have been through his fair share of hardships but that does not mean that he cannot be as capable than Mr Holmes instead he is shown to be a depiction of the ideal person of his time. In BBC’s version Dr Watson has the same traits as the original but with slight twists, for instance Mrs Toadvine notes that the two characters has the same line of work, he is very ordinary, so much so that he ‘blend-into-the-woodwork average.’ (Toadvine 2012 55)
What makes their friendship able to stand the test of time is the fact that they some differences and some similarities. Or as Saidler so beautifully remarks one case of male friendship can be that of healthy competition and therefore a fear of trusting, Holmes and Watson choose to overcome those feelings. (Saidler 1992) Mrs Saidler goes on to observe that Holmes is on his best behaviour when first encountering Dr Watson simply based on the fact that Mr Holmes seem polite. (Saidler 1992) In Doyle’s novel he even tells Dr Watson about his habits and interrogate Watson about his faults before agreeing to share rooms with him. This is express in the following quote: ‘It’s just as well for two fellows to know the worst of one another before they begin to live together.’ (Doyle, A Study in Scarlet. pp. 26) As mention previously these men develop a loving friendship shortly after meeting and with this security, they may end up being lonely. But what really gets this friendship rolling is the fact that Dr Watson does not have a place to stay in London. So, one may even claim that their friendship is a case of being in the right place at the right time.