The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Story.Paragraph)
[Henry Baker] was a large man with rounded shoulders, a massive head, and a broad, intelligent face, sloping down to a pointed beard of grizzled brown. A touch of red in nose and cheeks, with a slight tremor of his extended hand, recalled Holmes' surmise as to his habits. His rusty black frock-coat was buttoned right up in front, with the collar turned up, and his lank wrists protruded from his sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt. He spoke in a slow staccato fashion, choosing his words with care, and gave the impression generally of a man of learning and letters who had had ill-usage at the hands of fortune (Carbuncle.120).
Social class is definitely not fixed in Holmes's world: if you're upper class, you can fall into lower-class status. But we don't see many examples of the reverse, a lower-class person rising to upper-class status. Why not, we wonder? Is rising in social rank a bigger threat to the status quo than falling in social rank? How or how not?
I assure you, Watson, without affectation, that the status of my client is a matter of less moment to me than the interest of his case (Bachelor.6-12).
Holmes is a man of the people! Well, insofar as he's pretty much outside of society as a whole, so he doesn't have to let things like social status get to him. When we say Holmes is outside of society, we mean that he doesn't fit wholly into any of the social categories that are so important to these stories. First, he's a man, but he doesn't want to get married. Second, he's a professional, though one who's working for pleasure rather than for money (it would appear). Also, he's totally made up his job. He's the world's first private detective, he claims. And thirdly, the guy's educated, but primarily in the things that matter to him most: soil types and rare poisons and the like. Holmes is unique, and so it makes sense that he doesn't much care about other people's placement in a social order he doesn't really belong to. At the same time, Holmes is a product of his time, and making judgments based on class, race, and gender seem pretty unproblematic to him.