The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
How we cite our quotes:
It is unfortunately more than possible [that Mary Holder has eloped with Sir George Burnwell]; it is certain. Neither you nor your son knew the true character of this man when you admitted him into your family circle. He is one of the most dangerous men in England – a ruined gambler, an absolutely desperate villain, a man without heart or conscience. Your niece knew nothing of such men. When he breathed his vows to her, as he had done to a hundred before her, she flattered herself that she alone had touched his heart [...]
I have no doubt that she loved you, but there are women in whom the love of a lover extinguishes all other loves, and I think that she must have been one. (Coronet.204-7)
As a general rule in these stories, it appears that men often fall prey to greed or rage. Women, on the other hand, most often fall into crime as a result of excessive love – see Mary Holder in this passage or Mrs. Rucastle in "The Copper Beeches." Why does Conan Doyle give each gender different moral weaknesses? Do you think these distinctions hold true in real life?
I have thought sometimes that it was the disposition of her child which weighed upon her mind, for I have never met so utterly spoiled and so ill-natured a little creature [...] His whole life appears to be spent in an alternation between savage fits of passion and gloomy intervals of sulking. Giving pain to any creature weaker than himself seems to be his one idea of amusement, and he shows quite remarkable talent in planning the capture of mice, little birds and insects (Beeches.108).
In this passage, Violet Hunter is describing her employer's awful son. Holmes uses this kid's general evilness as further proof that his parents are bad. Is moral weakness something that can be taught? Are the children of bad parents really doomed to repeat their mistakes? Have we seen examples elsewhere in the Holmes stories that contradict or confirm Holmes's argument about the nature of children in "The Copper Beeches"?