The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Appearances Quotes Page 2
How we cite our quotes:
As he spoke there was a tap at the door, and the boy in buttons entered to announce Miss Mary Sutherland, while the lady herself loomed behind his small black figure like a full-sailed merchantman behind a tiny pilot boat. Sherlock Holmes welcomed her with the easy courtesy for which he was remarkable, and, having closed the door and bowed her into an armchair, he looked her over in the minute and yet abstracted fashion which was peculiar to him (Identity.13).
Look at all the subtle ways in which Mary Sutherland's slightly ridiculous character is suggested by her appearance: she "loom[s]" like a "full-sailed merchantman" (a kind of ship). In just a few words, Sutherland appears (a) big, and (b) funny. Holmes may be a great champion of unbiased observation, but Watson, as our narrator, gives his opinions about people's looks all the time.
[John Turner] was a strange and impressive figure. His slow, limping step and bowed shoulders gave the appearance of decrepitude, and yet his hard, deep-lined, craggy features and his enormous limbs showed that he was possessed of unusual strength of body and of character. His tangled beard, grizzled hair, and outstanding, drooping eyebrows combined to give an air of dignity and power to his appearance, but his face was of an ashen white, while his lips and the corners of his nostrils were tinged with a shade of blue. It was clear to me at a glance that he was in the grip of some deadly and chronic disease (Valley.189).
Yet another example of how Watson uses physical appearance and clothing as a mode of characterization ("his hard, deep-lined, craggy features […] showed that he was possessed of unusual strength of […] character"). But what we like about this passage is that Watson knows immediately that Turner is ill. Watson is a doctor, after all. So even though this description seems objective and realistic, that last little tidbit reminds us that all the narration in these stories is in some way personal, subjective, and told from one point of view.
I could see that Holmes was favourably impressed by the manner and speech of his new client. He looked her over in his searching fashion, and then composed himself, with his lids drooping and his fingertips together, to listen to her story (Beeches.21).
Even if Watson can't follow Holmes's mental deductions just by looking at him, Watson does have insight into Holmes's emotional state. After all, what are friends for? This is a nice, subtle piece of intimacy between the two guys: Watson really knows Holmes's mannerisms.