The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Study Guide

Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Symbols



Sherlock Holmes's pipes represent his cold logic. He smokes when he is stuck on a case and when he wants to philosophize. The harder the case, the more he smokes. For example, in "The Man with the Twisted Lip," Holmes stays up smoking the entire night before he is able to connect the dots between Neville St. Clair and the beggar Hugh Boone. Over the course of the evening he winds up smoking a full ounce of coarsely cut tobacco known as shag. In "The Red-Headed League" Holmes tells Watson the mystery is "a three pipe problem."

Holmes even smokes different pipes depending on his disposition. He takes out his cherry-wood pipe when he's in a "disputatious" mood, Watson informs the reader. When he's stuck in a problem, however, Holmes smokes his clay pipe. Whatever the pipe, when one is out the reader knows Holmes's mind is churning.


Violins represent Sherlock Holmes's romantic side. The detective is a master logician who is guided by reason above all else. He is suspect of love and emotions, viewing them as weaknesses that lead to bad decisions and, too often, crime. As a natural result he is almost always dispassionate, collected, and unemotional. His state, however, doesn't come entirely naturally to him—in fact he has to work to repress his emotions, Watson explains, for Holmes actually has a sensitive side he keeps buried.

This side comes out with the violin. On rare occasions Holmes will allow himself the pleasure of playing or listening to violin music. While he does he seems to transform into an entirely different person—someone with passion. His head nods along with the music, and he becomes overtaken by the pleasure of the moment—the very vice he rails against when he is in detective mode.

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