DeLeeuw- Analysis 2- Scarlet

“Oh, I didn’t say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in his ideas—an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough.” This is the first description we get of Sherlock Holmes in the reading. With this, one might think that the first meeting of Holmes would be bizarre and uncomfortable. In fact, it’s the opposite! Watson seems pleased with Holmes and Holmes seems excited to start working with him. To me, this doesn’t fit the characteristics of Autism because with previous examples, the people suffering from autism were stuck in their ways and afraid of being social.

However, as the second chapter begins Watson mentions Holmes’s regular schedule and meals. So to start off the reading, Holmes is a mystery. I think that’s what is so great about him, he solves mysteries, but he himself is one.

Naturally I had to look up some different opinions on the matter of Holmes being on the spectrum or not. I found a good article from the New York Times where they went into a great analysis of Sherlock. Below are a few symptoms that the author of the article claimed as evidence:


Holmes often seems oblivious to what others are thinking or feeling, even his dear Watson.


While working, Holmes seems inexhaustible, not sleeping for days. Between cases, he sometimes falls into a state of deep lethargy.


Holmes has extensive knowledge of odd subjects — like 140 different types of cigar, pipe and cigarette ash

When you look at Holmes from this perspective it’s hard to not think of him as Autistic, however I do not think he has it severely. Because of his social skills, sense of adventure, and ability to embrace change I can only conclude that he could have the mildest form, if at all. To me, he just seems like a quirky guy with different priorities than some.

I really liked how the narrator of this story is an observer, just like in Bartleby the Scrivener. It gave me another way of looking at someone with a different type of autism. The past two examples have been so extreme, and this one is very puzzling. Related, Watson and Holmes’ relationship reminds me a little of Raymond and Charlie’s relationship in “Rain Man.” The similarities I see are the ability to care about each other despite differences and bouncing off each other with jokes and such.

Although I didn’t really see too much Autism characteristics in Sherlock Holmes, I do agree that he could be considered on the spectrum. I think it is impossible to characterize a fictional character because we will never truly know what the author was thinking when he created the character and wrote his story. Consequently, Sherlock Holmes  will always be a mystery to his readers and analyzers.


One thought on “DeLeeuw- Analysis 2- Scarlet

  1. Trevor Sundelius

    “His studies are very desultory and eccentric.”

    To most, Sherlock Holmes seems almost ungodly a detective, carrying himself as some kind of confident superhero. And they could be onto something. Naturally, the amount of evidence that points towards Holmes being on the spectrum is numerous. However, while most believe he was, exactly where on the spectrum did he lie?

    I’m going to take your analysis a step further, as I did some research into autistic savants. After Rain Man, I became very intrigued in autistic savants and Sherlock Holmes actually popped into my head at one point. According to the Autism Research Institute, an autistic savant is a person with autism “who have extraordinary skills not exhibited by most persons.” This is a very broad definition, however when looked at with Holmes, there’s certainly a chance. They figured those on the spectrum a 10% chance to have “savant abilities”, while those without autistic including those with mental retardation is less than 1%.

    Thus if it is true what we’re arguing, there’s a 1/10 chance that he has savant abilities. I like to make comparisons to the character Raymond Babbitt of the movie Rain Main because of the obvious savant abilities but also the other many ways he exemplifies behaviors and thoughts of real life people who are autistic. Raymond has mathematic, memorization and visual mental abilities that are unparalleled, much like how you noted that Holmes had his obsessive focus and odd knowledge of outlandish subjects.

    I do believe that Sherlock Holmes is more high-functional than Raymond because while having ingenuity and cunningness being comparison, he is able to still venture out and be arguably the best detective in modern or historical literature. He’s able to solve crimes, puzzles and have the freedom to express himself in ways that Raymond could not. He was also able to hold conversations, albeit quirky and occasionally on the outlandish side with his always trusty and faithful companion Watson.

    While it is obvious that something, comparing to the days of when this work was written, that something was obviously “odd” or “strange” about Holmes. He was surrounded by Watson primarily, who often gave Holmes the benefit of the doubt, so to speak and simply by adventuring with him helped to not draw too much extra attention to the oddities of Holmes. The article mentioned before also mentions feats in the memorization area of intelligence, saying people with savant abilities will often remember all kinds of things, many of them very odd such as the types cigar, pipe and cigarette ash.

    Overall, while I definitely agree with you that his mind-blindness, mood swings and obsessive focus would probably have him fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum, I believe another factor in favor of that argument is definitely his savant abilities to remember 140 different types of one thing, have some a photographic memory and solve crimes in an almost artistic way. He was very cunning and yet quirky, and both descriptors can be followed back to signs of having autistic savant abilities.


    Edelson, S. M., Ph.D. (n.d.). Research: Autistic Savants | Autism Research Institute. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from



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