In What Ways is Sherlock Holmes the embodiment of Victorian Ideas of Progress? “You are yourself not luminous, but a conductor of light” The Victorian era was a time of great scientific advance, during which there were several scientific inventions and discoveries. Sherlock Holmes uses scientific vocabulary such as “a conductor of light,” this shows that he uses scientific methods throughout the novel, therefore Holmes can be considered an embodiment of Victorian ideas of progress and can be compared to a scientist.
Although the above quote is said by Holmes to Watson, it could be interpreted that Holmes is “luminous” as he illuminates the darkness in people’s minds and crimes, such as the Hound of the Baskervilles that other, less scientific detectives are unable to. The reason that Holmes tells Watson that “you are yourself not luminous” may be because he believes that he is luminous. Holmes uses his clear and logical mind to destroy myths with his scientific method.
He also uses forensic methods to solve complex crimes and mysteries, similar to a scientist.
Holmes uses tools like a scientist to analyze data that he has gathered and so then he can deduce information from this and take important facts to focus on and solve complicated problems. Conan Doyle’s creation, Sherlock Holmes, can therefore, be likened to a leading scientist such as Darwin, who attempted to destroy the Genesis theory using his idea of evolution. Many would conclude that the greatest and most significant scientific and mechanical breakthroughs, discoveries and inventions were uncovered in the Victorian era.
Many new types of science and a better understanding of diseases were developing. Conan Doyle tries to show this contemporary interest in science many times throughout his novel, for example, here, when Doctor Mortimer and Holmes are discussing phrenology. “I presume doctor that you could tell the skull of a Negro from that of an Esquimaux? ” Phrenology was a new type of science which was the study of brain size in relation to the size of the skull. This shows that Conan Doyle tries to include ideas about advances in science at the time this was written.
Although the Victorian period was an era of scientific revolution, it was also an age of mechanical development, for example, one of the most famous engineers of all time, Brunel lived in this age. Brunel was most noted for his revolutionary bridge designs and his design of train lines throughout the country. People were fascinated by this way of travel and the speed that people and goods could be transported from one place to another. This further promoted the idea of using science to solve problems in people’s lives. Holmes could be considered a problem solver such as Brunel as he uses his methodical approach to solve problems and crimes.
It can be seen, in this particular example, that Holmes uses his methodical approach when he is told about the curse of the Baskervilles, this is when Watson tells us that it was essential for Holmes to be in “seclusion and solitude” so that he could, “Weigh every particle of evidence, construct alternative theories, and balance one and other against each other. ” This shows that Holmes works methodically and that he uses “intense concentration” to help him to “Make his mind up to which points were essential and which immaterial. ”
However, Holmes does not only have a methodical approach to solving crime, but a scientific approach that many other detectives do not possess. This scientific approach to problem solving is shown numerous times throughout the novel; an example of it is when Holmes is analyzing the walking stick in the opening chapter. He is able to draw many conclusions about the owner of it very quickly; an example of one of these is that the owner is “a middle aged, family practitioner. ” This shows that Holmes is able to collect data, in this case about the man, by analyzing something given to him, like a scientist would be able to.
An example of such scientist is Darwin. Darwin would use his scientific skills, just as Holmes does, but would apply them to looking at a disease under a microscope or when analyzing information that he has collected. Not only can Holmes be likened to a leading scientist such as Darwin in terms of method, but also in the sense that they both attempted to destroy myths. Darwin tried to destroy the Genesis theory with his idea of evolution and this fatally wounded religious beliefs in Victorian society. Holmes on the other hand, successfully destroyed the myth of the hound of the Baskervilles.