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Unformatted text preview: The Gift of the Character Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, is the most recognizable fictional character in the history of media. With appearances in novels, short stories, films, theater, television, radio, and even comic strips, Holmes is a household name, an icon of American fiction and embodies what it means to be a detective.1 If Sherlock Holmes was a brand name, all the products in that category would be called Sherlock Holmes, just as any brand of photocopier can be referred to as a Xerox machine, and tissues are referred to as Kleenex. When shown an image of a man in a deerstalker hat, holding a pipe and a magnifying glass, the majority of people are consumed with thoughts of the famous Holmes, and his “Sherlockian” deduction, even if they are unfamiliar with Doyles’ writing. However, these same people would be hard-pressed to name any of the short stories or novels in which Holmes appears, let alone summarize their plot lines. In general, what is remembered about each of Holmes’ adventures is not the events which transpire, but solely Holmes’ remarkable ability to use ratiocination and save the day. Why does this disparity exist? Shouldn’t it be the author’s brilliant use of rhetoric that is remembered about a prolific piece of writing? It seems that in the case of not only Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, but also Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, the character is much more memorable, intriguing, and relatable than the stories in which they appear. Poe and Doyle’s greatest, most unforgettable, and indelible contribution to the genre of detective fiction is not the stories they wrote, but the characters they sculpted. In the 1840’s, when Edgar Allan Poe, with his short story “Murders in the Rue Morgue”, unwittingly constructed the genre which would grow to become detective fiction, crime was in the midst of a steep climb. “The social ramifications of overcrowding, poverty, immigration, and a growing disparity between rich and poor created new and inventive kinds of crime.”2 The general public was frightened; society was in the midst of a drastic change and it seemed crime was taking over. The police were not helpful in restoring even a false sense of security, causing the public’s trust in law enforcement to dwindle. When Poe began to write about a detective who was far superior to the police, who could solve any crime and restore peace to a tumultuous time, it would seem his primary goal was to appease the public. Poe created his detective C. Auguste Dupin to seem his primary goal was to appease the public....
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This note was uploaded on 02/27/2008 for the course HUMN 3093 taught by Professor Braider during the Fall '08 term at Colorado.
- Fall '08
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe, Detective fiction, C. Auguste Dupin