Study Guide

The Return of Sherlock Holmes Justice and Judgment

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Justice and Judgment

If Sherlock Holmes ever got his own reality show, we think he might go for something with a Judge Judy format. Holmes is pretty much already doing a sort of TV judge routine in his own living room. He enjoys having people come tell him their life stories; he tends to show off his intellect; he likes surprising people (and even causing the occasional near heart attack); and he is a big fan of dramatic statements, revelations, and judgments. Holmes really only likes having people around when is in all out dinner theater mode and is ready to sum-up the case for everyone. Justice and judgment are closely linked for Holmes since they are both very final. Holmes prizes his own judgment and reasoning above all else. And he also prizes his own code of ethics and understandings of justice, sometimes above the actual law. In fact, Holmes sometimes wraps up cases as if he is the law.

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. Holmes often keeps things from the police and pursues his own form of justice outside the actual law. How are these instances significant in the overall Sherlock Holmes narrative?
  2. How does Holmes define justice and what is "right"? Are there any cases that particularly highlight his view of justice?
  3. Do Holmes and the police follow a similar agenda? If not, how do their agendas and their pursuits of justice differ?

Chew on This

Holmes places more value on his own sense of justice and his own judgment than he does on the actual, objective law; justice for Holmes is ultimately highly subjective and based on his own reasoning.

Though Holmes doesn't condone murder, he does think that certain homicides are morally justifiable, depending on the nature of the person who was killed.

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