The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Conan Doyle is an intensely self-conscious writer. Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes often squabble over the value of truth versus fiction and over the ways Watson represents Holmes's work. As a writer who makes his fictional characters say bad things about fiction, Conan Doyle brings ironic distance to a whole new level. We also have to wonder if his personal ambitions to be famous as a serious rather than a popular novelist might have influenced some of his nastier remarks about commercial fiction and its weak plotlines.
Questions About Literature and Writing
- Why is Holmes so insistent that Watson leave human interest out of Holmes's chronicles? What assumptions does Holmes seem to be making about the relation between emotion and reason?
- Why does Conan Doyle include so many arguments against fiction in his fiction? Does he distinguish between different kinds of fiction?
- How would the Holmes stories be different if they were told from the perspective of a third-person narrator instead? What does Watson contribute, as both a narrator and a character, to these stories?
Chew on This
By criticizing cheap novels and popular fiction within his Holmes stories, Conan Doyle is making an argument that his tales about Holmes belongs in a class apart from the commercial fiction of the day.
Holmes's frequent statements that truth is stranger than fiction is a strategy on the part of the author to make even these far-fetched mysteries appear realistic and logical to the reader.