The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Study Guide

Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


How does the story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes play on fears of the Orient?

The Roylott family mansion isn't just scary because it is deteriorating—it's terrifying because it also contains all sorts of exotic dangers, including a baboon, a cheetah, and a group of gypsies, the age-old symbol of nomadic wandering and Eastern mysticism. Also, Dr. Grimesby Roylott himself seems to have been ruined by his experience in India. When he first traveled to the Orient he was a young man with promise; he returned, however, broken and disturbed. Lastly, the killer of Julia Stoner—and would-be killer of her sister Helen—turns out to be a swamp adder, a horrifying creature also from the Orient. Taken together, all of these elements confirm the perception (or perhaps more accurately, stereotype) of the East as a dark, dangerous place, and their inclusion in this story amplifies its feeling of horror.

What is the implicit lesson of the story "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes?

"The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" is a riveting story—as all Sherlock Holmes tales are—but it also carries a moral: when in doubt, go with your intuition. It begins when the young engineer is offered a project that seems way too good to be true: for a routine inspection of a hydraulic press, he will earn 10 times his normal rate. One near-death experience and loss of a thumb later, he realizes indeed the offer was way good to be true. Hatherley worried something sketchy was afoot multiple times throughout the story, but he kept going, lured by the prospect of keeping his struggling business afloat. By the end of the chapter he seems to have learned his lesson.

In the story "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, what makes Victor Hatherley suspicious of the German counterfeiter when he visits Hatherley's office?

Hatherley is suspicious of the German counterfeiter ("Col. Lysander Stark") from the moment the "colonel" arrives in his office in London. For one, Stark's German accent doesn't seem to fit the name he gives Hatherley. "Lysander" is the name of a famous Spartan warrior and a fairly common first name in Britain. Likewise, "Stark" is a common surname in Britain; neither is German. Second, his extreme skinniness and obsession with secrecy make him come off as eccentric, to say the least. Also, Stark's overly flattering comments about Hatherley's reputation and his mention that Hatherley is both a bachelor and an orphan further unsettle the young engineer. "A feeling of repulsion, and of something akin to fear had begun to rise within me at the strange antics of this fleshless man," Hatherley explains to Holmes and Watson. Nonetheless, he agreed to the job.

How does the German counterfeiter exploit the modern British travel system to deceive Victor Hatherley in the story "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes?

By the late 1880s Great Britain had a wide-reaching transit system. Trains and horse-drawn carriages enabled more people to get around the island than at any time in history. As a result people could take on jobs farther from their home cities. In "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" Victor Hatherley agrees to travel from London all the way to the German counterfeiter's home in the countryside, "a good seven miles from Eyford Station"—even though this means arriving at Eyford Station at 11:15 at night. Although Hatherley demurs twice, he allows "Stark" to convince him it's totally normal to visit an outdoor job site at midnight. Without the rail system "Stark" would never have had such a convenient and urgent ruse with which to lure Hatherley out to inspect the hydraulic press under cover of darkness. Hatherley is deceived because he simply assumes he is undertaking a normal journey out to a client's house—standard procedure for the modern British professional.

In what way might the story "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes be considered unsatisfying?

"The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" has by some measure an unsatisfying ending because the criminals get away with their crimes: they escape undetected from the property where they counterfeited coins, which means they are never prosecuted for viciously attacking Victor Hatherley. In this case justice simply isn't served, despite the fact that Holmes unlocks the story's mystery. The reader is left a bit unsettled, having to reckon with the knowledge that even Holmes cannot always get his man. It casts a seed of doubt on the belief in cosmic justice and hints that life isn't fair, even when Sherlock Holmes is involved.

In the story "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, how are Americans contrasted to the British?

The American characters in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" have strikingly different personalities and values from the British. Aloysius Doran, the father of Hatty Doran, is a self-made man who earned his fortune mining gold in the Rocky Mountains; he is the epitome of the American Dream. Hatty's second husband, Lord St. Simon, couldn't be more different: he is descended from multiple lines of British nobility that stretch back hundreds of years. He is a soft, dandy of a man who revels in his inherited status and has likely never worked a day in his life. Hatty is much like her father (at least before he became wildly rich). St. Simon describes her as incredibly strong-willed and "wild and free." She is also "unfettered by any traditions," a situation Victorian women would be unlikely to find themselves in. Even Hatty's American maid, Alice, is different. In St. Simon's view she and Hatty are much closer than they should be, because "in America they look upon these things in a different way."

In the story titled "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, what purpose does Flora Millar serve in the story?

Flora Millar, the tempestuous danseuse and St. Simon's ex-lover in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor," is a literal and figurative decoy. Literal because some of the characters in the story, such as Lestrade and St. Simon, suspect she lured Hatty Doran away from her wedding party and then somehow made the young bride disappear. For the reader, however, she is a figurative decoy because she pulls the reader off the scent of the true story, which is that Doran disappeared of her own volition. Millar has a strong motive for wanting to harm Doran, and they were spotted together, both of which are strong pieces of circumstantial evidence. She is a red herring.

What does the story "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes have to say about marriage?

"The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" offers two perspectives on marriage. The marriage between Lord St. Simon and Hatty Doran strongly implies love doesn't really matter or at least it's secondary to self-interest. With their union each partner obtained something very valuable: Hatty Doran gets a high-ranking place in British society and the approval of her father Aloysius Doran, and Lord St. Simon gets his hands on a very large family fortune. On the other hand, the fact that Hatty Doran left St. Simon—and his entire aristocratic world—to be with the American (and decidedly nonroyal) man she longed for, Frank Moulton, complicates the message that love doesn't matter.

In "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, how does Lestrade's tense discussion with Holmes at Baker Street underscore the investigators' different approaches to crime-solving?

This encounter reveals the starkly different approaches to crime-solving between Lestrade and Holmes. The former is methodical and physical; the latter is improvisational and intellectual. Lestrade is on edge when he arrives to Baker Street in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor." He has spent the day out on the streets of London digging for clues as to the whereabouts of Hatty Doran. He has uncovered what he believes to be a few useful clues—Doran's wedding clothes and a note to the bride from Flora Millar ("F.H.M.")—but not much else. It's unsurprising, then, that he would be so perturbed by Sherlock Holmes, who appears to have done little to advance the case save for making hypotheses in his head. Lestrade is in a foul mood and in no mood to be second-guessed, especially by Holmes. He is incredulous when Holmes flips over the note to Doran, nearly screaming at the private detective that he is "looking at the wrong side!" The tension between the two investigators has come to a head, and Lestrade, tired of Holmes and his ways, leaves Baker Street.

In the story "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, why doesn't Arthur Holder explain himself when his father sees him holding the Beryl Coronet?

Arthur Holder is completely innocent in "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet." In fact his quick thinking and action is the reason why the coronet is back at the Holder house (apart from the small fragment Burnwell, the actual thief, took off with). If Arthur explained what really happened, however, he would have to incriminate Mary, the love of his life. Disclosing her involvement in the scheme would undoubtedly break his father's heart, too. As a result Arthur decides to take the hit for Mary, no small effort given the costs of his silence: arrest and investigation by the authorities and the complete scorn of his father.

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