Arthur Conan-Doyle is the acclaimed author of the infamous Sherlock Holmes short stories. His stories, although often different in setting and subject follow certain characteristics that link them all together. The characteristics enable us to distinguish Conan-Doyle’s stories from stories of a similar genre, and allow the reader to stay interested in the whole series of stories as certain main features of the stories such as the relationship between Holmes and Watson can remain fairly consistent and yet there may be slight changes to keep the reader on their toes.
The first characteristic of a Sherlock Holmes short story is the introduction made by Watson, although it is not always Watson telling the story it is always the good Dr who introduces the reader to the next exciting adventure. In most occasions Dr Watson does continue to narrate the whole story as most of he stories are recited to us from Watson’s notes. However, on certain occasions like in the case of the Musgrave Rituals it is Holmes telling the story of a past case to Watson.
From the Musgrave Ritual we begin to realize how much Holmes is admired by Watson. This is another important characteristic used by Conan-Doyle as it begins to outline the two detectives great if unconventional friendship. In the Musgrave Ritual we learn that Holmes’ expeditions started before his ‘biography had come to glorify’ him. Watson asks Holmes if “These are cases of you early work then? I have often wished that I had notes of those cases” In showing his admiration of Holmes to the reader Watson illustrates his role in the friendship, Holmes then shows us his arrogance and domination of the friendship when he is refers to Watson as nothing but his biographer in a quite derogatory manner.
This scene is replayed in many of the Holmes short stories and is a regular characteristic throughout.
After the introduction by Watson we are quickly introduced to the case by either Holmes or Watson, this is often by the introduction of a third party, the victim of the case, or an inspector having trouble solving a case or even and old man who lost a turkey in the case of the Blue Carbunkle. The third party brings to the story a new personality, and the way they are introduced is another consistent characteristic of a Sherlock Holmes story. Arthur Conan-Doyle goes into great detail when describing a new character into the adventure. Through Watson (in most cases) the reader’s imaginary taste buds are tickled with fantastic slices of information, which make the fictional tale even more lifelike.
When we are introduced to Dr Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran in the adventure of The Speckled Band we are given half a page of description, “…a huge man had framed himself in the aperture. His costume was a peculiar mixture of the professionaland of the agricultural, having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat and a pair of high gaiters, with a hunting- crop swinging in his hand. So tall was he that his hat actually brushed the cross bar of the doorway, and his breadth seemed to span it across from side to side. A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other of us, while his deep-set, bile shot eyes, and his high, thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey.”
As the story progresses Watson acts as a link between the reader and the puzzle, he is often as confused as we are as Holmes delves deeper into the mystery. Conan Doyle litters red herrings around his stories so as to distract the reader from the path that Holmes may be taking and to build up the feeling of suspense, this is a common technique used by the author although not always to the same affect. Conan Doyle uses the red herring well in the case of the 6 Napoleons where the motive for the crime is not realised until the very end of the tale, so the red herrings are harder to spot.
Holmes’ character is consistent throughout the stories, he is very enigmatic in his work and unwilling to share what he has found until the crime has been solved, in his conclusion Holmes uses simple sentences as he unfolds his methods to solving the crime, he makes it seem very simple. “I could not say that he had not found the pearly in Harker’s bust. I had not even concluded for certain that it was the pearl.” “The name of the murdered man linked the one even with the other.”
Holmes is seldom humbled, and rarely shows emotion this is another of Conan Doyles characteristics that that complement the stories Arthur Conan Doyle followed certain techniques when writing the Sherlock Holmes short stories, he kept many characteristics constant so as to write a complete series. And, although each of the stories were quite different to one another they are all easily distinguished as an Arthur Conan Doyle piece of work. This is perhaps the reason that the novels were so successful with book readers worldwide.