The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Study Guide

Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In the story titled "The Man with the Twisted Lip" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, what does Neville St. Clair's self-disappearing plot reveal about the values of his society?

Neville St. Clair's scheme tells readers the enfranchised of his society deeply disapproved of poor people, or at least beggars. After his wife nearly discovers him, he is so ashamed to come clean to his family about the circumstances that led him to beg for a living that he fakes his own disappearance. His shame is revealed after Holmes exposes Hugh Boone's true identity in the jail cell: "suddenly realizing the exposure, [St. Clair] broke into a scream and threw himself down with his face to the pillow." As he explains why he concocted the scheme, he says "God help me! I would not have [my children] ashamed of their father. My God! What an exposure!" Clearly revealing his "job" and financial predicament to his children is a totally humiliating fate.

In the story "The Man with the Twisted Lip" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, what does Sherlock Holmes's conversation with Watson outside the opium den reveal about their friendship?

Though he is a remarkably accomplished and independent man, Sherlock Holmes can come off as a bit needy on occasion, especially when Watson is involved. After the pair walks away from the Bar of Gold opium den, Holmes asks—nay, almost pleads—with Watson to accompany him to the St. Clair homestead. "Now, Watson ... You'll come with me, won't you?" he asks, with an air of vulnerability. Watson responds deferentially, saying he will come along, "if I can be of use." Holmes responds emphatically, saying, "Oh, a trusty comrade is always of use." This exchange reveals Holmes's fondness for his friend, and even suggests he is a bit lonely. In earlier chapters Holmes confesses Watson is his only friend. Because Watson is married and is thus less available than he used to be, Holmes appears to miss him greatly and tries to take advantage of any opportunity for the pair to spend time together.

What does the story "The Man with the Twisted Lip" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes tell readers about transit in Britain in the late 1800s?

"The Man with the Twisted Lip" demonstrates just how modern the British transit system is by the late 1800s. In fact the story would be quite different if it were set 50 or 100 years earlier. The characters, who are both city dwellers and commuters, make use of carriages just like readers today make use of cars. Watson can travel across town at the last minute because he has access to transportation. Likewise, a carriage is waiting for Sherlock Holmes after he emerges from the opium den. At this time there was also a comprehensive rail transit system in place. This system enabled Neville St. Clair to "work" in the city every day from his villa near Kent; Holmes tells Watson St. Clair "[returned] by the 5:14 from Cannon Street every night."

In "The Man with the Twisted Lip" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, in what ways is the depiction of the lascar nuanced?

While the lascar is undoubtedly spoken of and treated as an exotic foreigner, his depiction in "The Man with the Twisted Lip" isn't entirely negative. At the beginning of the story, while Holmes and Watson are talking outside the opium den Holmes calls the lascar "rascally" and says he "has sworn to have vengeance upon me." The implication that the lascar is violent and immoral is undoubtedly a stereotype of the era. Later in the narrative, however, Neville St. Clair speaks of the lascar in a way that's vaguely complimentary. While he's giving his confession to Holmes, Watson, and Bradstreet, he says he "knew [his] secret was safe in [the lascar's] possession." This is because he paid the lascar to rent a changing room in the opium den. It's a small thing, but it complicates—even if ever so slightly—the stock portrayal of the man.

In "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, what does Watson and Holmes's discussion about cases as "bizarre without being criminal" reveal about their beliefs?

Watson's remark in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" that three out of the six cases he and Holmes have examined "have been entirely free of any legal crime" reveals a belief that just because a deception may not be a prosecutable offense, it may still be morally offensive. In the view of Holmes and Watson, justice goes beyond the limitations of the legal system. For example, Miss Mary Sutherland, the young London woman so cruelly deceived by her mother and stepfather in "A Case of Identity," probably would not have any legal recourse. And yet, it is crystal clear Holmes (and Watson) finds her stepfather, James Windibank, a truly reprehensible man and thus works to put a stop to his exploitation. Watson's statement points out the shortcomings of the legal system, at least from a viewpoint of total justice. Arguably, Holmes's greatest contribution is stepping in to correct or at least expose wrongdoing when the system cannot or will not.

In "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, what is the reasoning behind Holmes's decision not to report the thief, James Ryder, to the authorities?

Holmes forces Ryder to confess to his crime, but he decides not to involve the police for a few reasons. Most importantly, Holmes argues Ryder will never testify against John Horner, who has been falsely accused of the crime, because Ryder has been fingered as the true culprit and is terrified he will be found out. As a result the case against Horner will be dropped because of insufficient evidence, and he will go free. Holmes also tells Watson that if Ryder goes to prison his life will be ruined and he will probably become a career criminal. Given Ryder's seemingly sincere repentance and shame, Holmes feels he has reformed and will no longer involve himself in crime. Lastly, Holmes says letting Ryder be is in the spirit of Christmas: "It is the season of forgiveness," he tells Watson.

How is the plot of "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes more like that of a conventional mystery than a typical Doyle story?

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" reads like more of a traditional mystery than a classic Sherlock Holmes tale. In the latter solving the case is mostly or entirely dependent upon Holmes's unique powers of detection and deduction. In this story, however, the culprit, James Ryder, is fingered simply by tracing the path of the goose whose crop contained the precious stone. As a result there's not much sleuthing—just a lot of running around. The impressive deductions Holmes makes about Henry Baker after scrutinizing his hat don't directly influence the plot; rather, they are simply an opportunity for Holmes to show off his skills to Watson (and readers). The plot itself is straightforward: find the goose—and then find the culprit.

In what ways does the story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes exhibit elements of Gothic horror?

Gothic horror stories typically combine elements of death, mystery, and psychological drama. They are spooky tales that play on our fears and evoke an unsettling reaction in the reader. Accordingly, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is a classic Gothic tale. The location where Julia Stoner's murder (and the attempted murder of her sister Helen) takes place couldn't be more ominous: a crumbling, isolated mansion inhabited by the disturbed heir of a once-famous family and his dangerous and exotic pets—talk about a haunted house! The heir himself, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, is a hulking, angry monster of a man who casts a threat of violence wherever he goes. Even his name is creepy. As the story unfolds, a deeper and deeper sense of foreboding comes over Watson and Holmes, adding a dramatic buildup of tension to the story. Throughout the story the duo frequently points out the scary and unknown forces they seem to be up against. "It seems to me a most dark and sinister business," Watson says after Helen Stoner's visit. "We shall have horrors enough before the night is over," Holmes tells Watson as the two camp out in the Crown Inn.

Why is the exchange between Dr. Grimesby Roylott and Sherlock Holmes in the story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes so humorous?

When Roylott skulks into Holmes's office to confront Holmes, he is breathing fire. He yells at Holmes for talking to his stepdaughter and tries to insult the detective with a series of insults. "You are Holmes, the meddler," Roylott spits. "Holmes, the busybody!" he shouts. After each putdown, however, Holmes can't help but grin, keenly aware of the raging maniac in his midst. Throughout the entire scene Holmes refuses to take Roylott's bait, electing instead to respond with bland statements about the weather and crocuses, of all things. The dissonance between Roylott's menacing insults and crocuses creates a feeling of comic absurdity. "He seems a very amiable person," Holmes remarks wryly to Watson after Roylott leaves, perfectly punctuating the bizarre exchange.

In the story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, what purpose in the story do the gypsies serve?

The gypsies serve multiple purposes in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." One, they add a feeling of exoticism and intrigue to Stoke Moran, which in turn enhances the story's eerie setting. Throughout literature—particularly British literature—gypsies have symbolized the supernatural and mysterious. Thus the presence of gypsies and wild animals at Stoke Moran is meant to imply it is an exotic, creepy, dangerous place. Additionally, the "band" of gypsies serves as a red herring. Holmes—and no doubt, the reader—interprets Julia Stoner's dying words about a "speckled band" as a reference to the group of gypsies camped on the Stoke Moran property. Until Holmes is able to prove conclusively that Julia's killer came from within the house, the band of gypsies remains one of the prime suspects in her murder.

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