Trisch, Analysis Two

In this analysis, I wanted to further analyze the possible clues that pointed to Sherlock Holmes being an autistic character, and compare his behavior in this story to the one we had studied last week.

In A Study in Scarlet, one of the most convincing clues that I felt pointed toward Holmes being an autistic savant was shown in the scene where he meets Watson for the first time. In this scene, he is able to immediately deduce that Watson was a war doctor in Afghanistan, despite having never met Watson before in his life. He was able to do this through quick and acute observation that most of us do not possess. Because we have been studying the different traits that those with autism can demonstrate, I felt that this was probably a sign that Sherlock Holmes fell somewhere on the spectrum.

As I read The Hound of the Baskervilles, I noticed more of the traits that can be symptomatic of those with autism. Before I started reading this story, I wanted to have another source of possible autistic traits prepared so I would know what to watch for, in social situations particularly, so I found an article published on the Indiana University resource center for autism webpage that discussed social communication characteristics of those with autism. One of the traits that was listed in this article was, “Lack a repertoire or have difficulty selecting/applying appropriate social communication strategies in everyday situations and conversations.” (Vicker 1) This was a characteristic that was shown by Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

One scene that stuck out to me in particular was Holmes’ interview with Laura Lyons. In this scene, he questions Lyons’ in a way that is different from the way Watson approached her earlier in the book. As he is interviewing Lyons, he jumps right into questioning her in a manner that many would perceive as being accusatory or too blunt. Doyle makes sure that we are aware of this, as he writes, “Sherlock Holmes opened his interview with a frankness and directness which considerably amazed her.” (Doyle 237)

As I was thinking about this passage, I was reminded of the episode of “Sherlock” that we watched in class last week. The brutal honesty that arises from a lack of social filtering was also demonstrated in this portrayal of Holmes as well, as shown in the scene where he tells his assistant that she looked worse without her lipstick. It is clear to the audience that he is not saying this in a malicious manner, but simply does not see the error in his actions.

I cannot state definitively if Holmes is indeed an autistic character; none of us can, as we are not the creator of the character. However, after analyzing three different examples of Holmes and comparing the traits he expresses to those that are symptomatic of autism, I do believe that Holmes may indeed be an autistic character. I feel that this is especially interesting considering the lack of knowledge surrounding autism when Sherlock Holmes was written.



One thought on “Trisch, Analysis Two

  1. frickeh8

    I find it really interesting how BBC Sherlock is written as compared to Doyle’s original Sherlock. I definitely think that the television portrayals of Sherlock Holmes play off of the neurodiverse aspect a lot more than the book, and that when most of us think of Sherlock Holmes we are influenced by these different medias. As we discussed in class, there certainly are quite a few traits characteristic of those with ASD . . . but there were also quite a few complications. I have seen others post that it would be a stretch to say that Holmes has ASD because when the book was written autism didn’t exist. However, I don’t think that’s why I’m having a difficult time grappling with some sort of ‘diagnosis’ for Holmes. After all, before depression and anxiety were actually clear and well-known diagnoses, they surely existed symptomatically within individuals. I think my problem is more that Holmes possibly wasn’t written to be pathologized, but was indeed written with an individual reference in mind–Doyle’s friend. And I know there is a lot of analysis done with the perspective that the reader’s interpretation is more important than author intent, but it’s just something to keep in mind. I, for one, having trouble NOT seeing Sherlock as having ASD, mostly from the sheer amount of media portrayals of him that tell me otherwise. I guess one difference that really sticks out to me is that (so far) Doyle’s Sherlock doesn’t seem the type to tell a woman she looked better with the lipstick on, and that without it her mouth was too small. Not only is BBC laying it on thick that Sherlock is very much not proficient in sociability, but that it hinges on being flat out cruel (again, adding to the stereotypes of ASD in a really negative way). I think it’s interesting to try and see how modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes are affected by modern views of ASD, and compare it to Doyle and his generation’s view of the neurodiverse.



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