VanOrd, Analysis: Baskervilles

After focusing on the different characters and their traits during our last class meeting I decided to look more into the author of this week’s reading, Arthur Conan Doyle. I was intrigued to find his inspiration for the character Sherlock Holmes as well as to piece together how his inspiration influenced the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in our reading of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (“Baskervilles”).

I found that when Doyle was a young man in college he had a professor, Dr. Joseph Bell, who apparently enjoyed guessing the profession of students using deductive reasoning. Bell’s methods, as well as his cold, unattached personality, became staples in Doyle’s depiction of Sherlock Holmes. Bell’s stressed teachings to his students on the “importance of observation, using all the senses to obtain an accurate diagnosis” I imagine added to the imagine Doyle cooked up in his mind of Sherlock Holmes.

In our reading of “Baskervilles,” Doyle continued to stress Holmes ways of order, logic, and science to assess situations in order to solve the mystery. An example of Holmes commitment to logical reasoning and science is when Mortimer is presenting his letter him and Watson. As Mortimer reads the gripping tale of the curse of the Baskervilles, Holmes appears to almost be bored and uninterested. When Mortimer is finished reading, Holmes states that he doesn’t believe in superstitions or the supernatural. Basically, Sherlock Holmes doesn’t buy the idea of the curse for one moment and continues on deducting the mystery with logical reasoning. Regardless of his true beliefs though, Holmes baits Stapleton by pretending to find no other explanation for the strange happenings other than the curse and therefore be absent while Watson works on the case. It is clear that Holmes only pretended to back off the case to lure Stapleton into a false sense of safety, knowing that he would slip up if he thought Holmes wasn’t around to watch him. Later on in the story we find out that Holmes has been stalking the case the entire time, keeping a watchful eye on the suspects and situation in general.

I think it takes someone with a great deal of commitment to the individual traits of their characters to be able to relentlessly portray them in a certain light. Doyle has undoubtedly portrayed Holmes in the light of science and logic in this story very well, keeping up with the characteristics he displayed of Holmes in the reading from last week, “A Study in Scarlet”.  I think Doyle was likely able to portray Holmes so well and consistently partially because he had a real person to base Holmes off of that served as a lasting inspiration to feed from.

 

Citations:

“The Author.” Discovering Arthur Conan Doyle. Stanford University, 2006. Web. 01 Oct. 2016.

http://sherlockholmes.stanford.edu/biography4.html

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2 thoughts on “VanOrd, Analysis: Baskervilles

  1. sgrit96

    It is extremely intriguing to me that Doyle’s depiction of Sherlock Holmes is based on Dr. Joseph Bell. This concept could potentially prove that by trying to identify Sherlock Holmes as a representation of an autistic character in fiction we are in fact merely searching for the stereotyped “autistic character”. The stereotype we apply is one which cannot represent the full spectrum of autism and in many cases (as in Sherlock Holmes and Raymond Babbitt) represents a small subset of those on the spectrum with savant capabilities. Perhaps we cause more harm than good in forcing a diagnosis of autism on these characters because we no longer view the human variable of the character and merely see them as a series of stereotyped behavior patterns.
    When I read through “The Hounds of Baskervilles”, I tried to find indications of Sherlock being an eccentric scientific type rather than an autistic character. In doing so I was hoping to provide a different way of viewing the character than my previous reading for the last class. I wrote about the potential diagnosis of Sherlock, but now I am trying to contradict my prior view to figure out the most appropriate characterization.
    I found that when keeping in mind the focus on finding complications to the diagnosis of autism for Sherlock I came across one extremely important moment which indicates Doyle’s inspiration for Sherlock (Dr. Joseph Bell). The moment to which I am referring is a conversation between Sherlock and Dr. Mortimer when Sherlock states that he could identify the script on the note “Because that is my (Sherlock’s) special hobby, and the differences are equally obvious. There is as much difference to my eyes between the leaded bourgeois type of a Times article and the slovenly print of an evening half-penny paper as there could be between your negro and your Esquimau” (16). This moment made me question the possibility that Sherlock is merely an eccentric scientist with an extreme fixation on crime.
    I reviewed the reading after I read your analysis actually to search for the indications of Dr. Bell’s character in Sherlock in an effort to complicate a diagnosis. I believe that I was successful in finding a key moment in which his scientific eccentricity could be linked to his basis on Dr. Bell and found slight indications in last week’s readings as well.
    I begin to question now if we try to assign a diagnosis to characters that are Neurodivergent in an effort to classify them for our own comfort. I also have to question if this leads us to stigmatize Neurodivergence and stereotype characters merely to categorize them. I hope that I can learn from these readings to stop trying to categorize and diagnose characters that are not necessarily “normal” and perhaps bring attention to the fact that in doing so we dehumanize those who have been diagnosed with autism or other Neurodivergent diagnoses.

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