An Elementary Choice

I think I was in seventh grade when I first picked up a copy of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, on a hot afternoon at a roadside bookstall in Mumbai. It was a second-hand purchase; the book was purple-tinted and dog-eared, rough and sturdy to touch. Little did I know that I had just picked up the gateway into the world of one of the greatest literary creations I have ever known, and it is from that moment onwards that my love for my favourite literary detective, Sherlock Holmes, began.

My sweet! My precious!
(photo taken by me)
What I find so magical about Holmes are the sheer multiplicities Sir Arthur Conan Doyle managed to include in his character. Holmes at his worst is taciturn and cruel, addicted to opium and tobacco, strangely ignorant, insufferably vain and almost impossible to live with. As the long-suffering Dr Watson points out, Holmes practices gun-shooting indoors, performs chemical experiments that make skunks blush with their smells, snaps at anyone who he considers to be less intelligent- which is literally everyone- and should be, by all accounts, an unbearable person to know and live with- and yet in Conan Doyle’s creation, I see an extraordinary gentleness and profundity, coupled with complete irreverence for conventions, hardly found anywhere else.
In “A Scandal in Bohemia”, Holmes bluntly tells the King of Bohemia that he is a manipulative narcissist who does not deserve the woman he wants; along with other characters in “The Adventure of the Yellow Mask”, he embraces a little African-American girl- in the 1890s- as one of his own; his loathing of his nemesis, Charles Augustus Milverton, rests entirely on his sympathy with his victims. His kindness shines through when in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”, Holmes lets a thief go, risking felony charges in the process, because he believes the man deserves another chance; in “The Mystery of the Veiled Lodger”, as he comforts a wretched woman, hoping that there will be “some compensation” for her in the world beyond, we see in him a philosopher; having caught his man in “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”, he has the compassion to ask Watson, “What is the meaning of this… circle of misery and violence and fear?”
The second of my loves!
(photo taken by me)

Holmes is not just a stereotype of rudeness and eccentricity to me, although he has plenty of both; he is not merely his ruthless dedication to his art; he is not defined only by his relationships to Dr Watson, Professor Moriarty or Irene Adler. Of course his bromance with Dr Watson melts my withered soul, and the fact that he regards the independent and resourceful Violet Hunter, and the equally intelligent Ms Adler, not as romantic or sexual objects but just as really kickass human beings makes me, as a reader and a woman, very happy indeed. But it is the individual Sherlock Holmes, with his many moods, his violin playing, his mischievous sense of humour and his instinctive hope for humankind that I love above practically every other creation in English Literature.
 You see, I perceive Sherlock Holmes almost as a real person. In my mind, greatness, fondness, and a sense of familiarity, almost of home, is synonymous with the figure with the pipe, the magnifying glass and the deer-stalker, and if he were indeed a real person, I have no doubt that he would be one of the greatest men that ever lived.
My original fanart for my favourite detective, created circa 2013.

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This is an entry for the Marathon Blogging Contest for the Kolkata Literature Festival 2015. 
Find details on the contest and the fest at : fb.com/kollitfest and fb.com/kolkatabloggers 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Your post made me relive my childhood! When you were quoting Sherlock's many actions in Doyle's many tales about, I was getting this feeling of deja vu, as I too had had epiphanies about the turpitudes and morality of the very same character, shaping him out to not just be the fictional great detective that we know, but also, like you said, seeing him as a real person in my mind's eye!
    Doyle's most famous quote is perhaps when he says, “If in 100 years I am only known as the man who invented Sherlock Holmes then I will have considered my life a failure”. I can understand why a person wouldn't want his lifetime validated by just 1 piece of work, but, I think, if he saw the love and adoration that his work was getting today, even how little kids are starting their reading journeys with abridged Sherlock books, then I'm sure he would've had a change of heart.
    And if he didn't, we Sherlock-aims wouldn't care either ways, would we? Because our lIves have definitely being validated by reading yhe adventures of the great detective: Sherlock Holmes.

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  2. I'm glad I could revive that image for you! I think Doyle would be perplexed if he saw all the Holmes-mania nowadays, but we could always rope in Steven Spielberg as proof that we remember him through his other works as well xD thank you so much for your participation ❤

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  3. This is perfect. :')
    Every word of it.
    The fact that Sherlock Holmes is more than just the superfast deductive mind, only second to Mycroft, is something that really needs to be highlighted. People tend to overlook that, because of the power of his sheer intellectual prowess that takes up a whole lot of the stories.That awe needs to be countered – something that the flashes of his humane tender sides often do.
    Like instances of his friendship with Watson (Thanks for reminding me about the Garridebs).
    This is what makes Holmes so real to me- the depth, the complexity, the gamut of vices and virtues of psychologically well-defined characters- and i agree and support every word u said there.
    This is pure GENIUS!

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  4. Thank you! I think many of the adaptations of Sherlock tend to make excuses for him being the way he is: Monk with the OCD, House with the pure ass-hole-ery, BBC's Sherlock with the similar acerbic behaviour akin to autism. The fact that he could have been a perfectly stable human being with no hint of a psychological disorder as a crutch for his personality, just a very complex, dynamic, multi-faceted nature, seems to occur to no one, and that is why I like the original books- they present him, as you said, as a human being, with particularly well-defined characterisation. No excuses. Just love xD
    Thanks for commenting!

    Like

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