Sherlock Holmes Opium Den

Categories: Holmes

In The Man with the Twisted Lip one of the main settings is the opium den. This is a spooky setting, in a seedy area makes a direct reference to social and historical issues at the time. It is between a gin shop, making references to the alcohol use and a slop shop which was a cheap clothes shop reflecting the poverty of the times. Slop shop is alliterated; alliteration is commonly used in prose, particularly to highlight short phrases. Then as well as alcohol use and poverty, people used drugs more often, with cocaine in coca-cola, recipes for cocaine pudding in cookbooks and drugs used for pain relief.

In fact opium was the cause of a war between China and England and legislation was being put in place to deal with the growing abuse of opium and laudanum in the later part of the 19th century. However at the time of The Man with the Twisted Lip, opium dens were still legal and where one could go to smoke the drug.

The entrance is described by Dr Watson as “a black gap like the mouth of a cave” and the atmosphere “thick and heavy with brown opium smoke”. It is clear that this is a rough place with “bodies lying in strange fantastic poses”. This quote reflects the feelings triggered by taking opium, fantastic but strange.

The combination of words shows it’s not all what it seems and to me reflects the addictiveness of it, the bodies unidentified as they are not sane.

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The opium itself is described as “burning poison” reflecting the dangers and health problems with taking opium and also the way it poisons your soul. At Briony Lodge in A Scandal in Bohemia it is not really a typical setting for a crime. It is the home of Irene Adler who is the unconventional villain in this story. It is an ordinary English house, with Sherlock Holmes describing it as “A bijou villa . . . large sitting room on the right side, well furnished, with long windows almost to the floor”.

There is nothing really abnormal about it. There are not really any negative adjectives used in the description of Briony Lodge meaning that it’s certainly not a sinister place. Overall for it to be a typical setting for a crime novel, the setting should have something memorable about it, something slightly abnormal. In the case of the opium den in The Man with the Twisted Lip it is a drug den something which most readers will not have experienced. In The Speckled Band, Stoke Moran is a dilapidated and isolated house. In the case of criminals, The Speckled Band criminal, Dr Roylott is the one of the most typical.

He is very noticeable; being “a huge man” with a face “seared with 1000 wrinkles” and “bile-shot eyes”. Dr Watson seems to continue the animal theme again, using “he resembled an old, fierce bird of prey” to describe the overall menacing look of the man. He apparently has a history of violence it is revealed as he “beat his native butler to death” and “a violence of temper approaching to mania is hereditary in the men of the family”. This compared with Dr Moriarty in The Final Problem shows that the typical villains tend to inherit their violence and setting them up as prime suspects.

I get the impression that Sherlock Holmes does not think very highly of Dr Roylott, calling him “a brute” which is in contrast to Irene Adler and Dr Moriarty who are both described as Sherlock Holmes equals, on his level. The villain in the A Scandal in Bohemia is Hugh Boone (aka Neville St Clair). This is an interesting one because the villain is the same person as the victim! Mr. St. Clair created Hugh Boone the beggar to make money begging as he found the rich loved his extensive knowledge of poetry. To create the sympathy, he used makeup to disfigure himself.

This is important because at the time, maimed and disabled people were shunned out of society, they were the underclass. It is because of this that Hugh Boone earnt so much money because people felt sorry for him. With Hugh Boone being so repellant looking he is also highly noticeable. He is described by using plenty of negative adjectives, “the grime which covered his face could not conceal its repulsive ugliness” and “three teeth were exposed in a perpetual snarl”. The words repulsive and snarl conjure up a very ugly character as the words are at the height of unattractive English words.

The villain in A Scandal in Bohemia is atypical, as it is a woman! This is interesting because at the time of the stories, the role of women was very much under that of men. Women stayed at home to bring up the kids, rarely having jobs. They had very few rights and virtually the possessions of men. So for a woman to be the one Sherlock Holmes is against is unusual. We are made aware that this woman is not an ordinary woman, her name is Irene Adler, with Dr Watson describing her significance to Holmes as “to Sherlock Holmes she was always the woman”.

In fact in the end, the great Sherlock Holmes is beaten by her and Sherlock Holmes respects this. However Sherlock Holmes was not in love with her, as many were, “she is the daintiest thing under a bonnet” he says. This again suggests that she is highly noticeable. Dr Watson says that to Sherlock Holmes “all emotions and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind”. Irene Adler is also a victim in his story, she has been victim to the King of Bohemia’s messing around with love and as a result has been hurt and simply wants to pay him back.

So in a way, it could be argued that she is a victim too. I think that is why in the end she is allowed to get away quietly with her word that she will not interfere again. In The Final Problem, Sherlock Holmes faces his equal, Dr Moriarty. He is an extremely clever man, with Sherlock Holmes describing him as “a man of good birth and excellent education. “, “But the man had hereditary tendencies of a most diabolical kind, a criminal strain ran in his blood”. Again he is noticeable, being “extremely tall and thin” with “2 eyes deeply sunken in his head”. The most interesting description of him is “pale and ascetic-looking”.

The word sounds a bit like acidic which is an unpleasant word. Because of this if the readers don’t understand what the word means; they will still get the gist. Dr Moriarty is Holmes’ greatest opponent, a criminal mastermind. He is clearly Holmes’ greatest challenge and was created as a plausible and fitting end to Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle sought to sweeten his end by letting Holmes go in a blaze of glory, having rid the world of a criminal so powerful and dangerous that any further task would be trivial in comparison (Holmes says as much in the story itself). Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are a great literary pairing.

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Sherlock Holmes Opium Den. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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