I am embarrassed to say that this was the first time being introduced to Sherlock Holmes. Obviously, I have seen the movies and know the characters and that it was centered around mystery. I had no preconceptions going into this week’s readings because I have had no previous involvement with Conan Doyle’s work.
I certainly understand that Sherlock’s character can be interpreted and characterized as having autistic qualities. These qualities are especially blatant in the first few pages of the reading when Watson is first hearing of Sherlock and his mannerisms.
I found a New York Times article on Sherlock Holmes, which provides some definitions and characteristics that could potentially link Holmes with that of a person with autism. One characteristic is “obsessive focus” or the knowledge of odd subjects (Sanders). This is demonstrated in Doyle’s work when Watson is hearing of Mr. Holmes, “His studies are very desultory and eccentric, but he has amassed a lot of out-of-the way knowledge which would astonish his professors ” (6). Furthermore, Holmes is referred to as a “walking calendar of crime” because of his profuse knowledge of the subject (7). However, when Watson questions Holmes of the simple relevant theory of the Earth orbiting the sun rathe than vice versa, Holmes justifies is lack of knowledge on the fact that the brain only holds so much information. I think this is demonstrative of Holmes’s knowledge in limited areas. While he certainly is smart, he has a vast knowledge in particular fields that no one else would find relevant or worthwhile to know as well as Holmes.
The other relevant issues in the article are that of “mind blindness” and “mood swings”. Mind blindness is when someone is oblivious or unaware of what others are thinking or feeling (Sanders). Holmes demonstrates this characteristic by being described as, “..a man that is not easy to draw out though he can be communicative enough when the fancy seizes him” (6). Another description is that he is “…a little too scientific..it approaches to cold-bloodedness” (6). Moreover, his mood swings are made clear by Holmes himself expressing that he gets extremely down in the dumps where he does not talk for days (7).
While the aforementioned characteristics resemble that of characters we have previously seen in other pieces such as Rain Man and Bartleby, it is apparent that Holmes has mild symptoms compared to the others. He demonstrates lack of social aptitude while also being able to be fully communicative when he wants to be. He has regular routines and extensive, and limited, knowledge in certain areas but applies them extremely well to his field and refers to his abilities as simply being a “method”. Interestingly enough, the article by Sanders points out that one acclaimed editor of the Holmes stories (Leslie Klinger) favors, “‘bipolar disorder, pointing to the detectives swings between hyperactivity and lassitude'” (Sanders). She claims that his “grandiosity” and “extravagant behavior” are results from a possible familial inheritance. She then goes on to state that his mood swings are because of the disorder and his low periods are due to extreme depression (Sanders). She also acknowledges that his swings are often work related and that his cocaine use was when he was depressed and not when he was hyperactive (Sanders).
It is interesting to think of Holmes and apply both theories: autism versus bipolar. I feel as though there is evidence and claims to be made on both sides.
Sanders, Lisa. “Hidden Clues.” The New York Times. 4 Dec. 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/magazine/06diagnosis-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0, Accessed 25 Sept. 2016.