What are the Key elements of the early crime fiction genre as exemplified by Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes short stories? In this essay I shall discuss the key elements that are prominent in the early crime fiction genre as exemplified by Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' short stories. So I have read three short stories and studied them closely, they are as followed, 'The Red-Headed League,' 'The Speckled Band,' and lastly the 'Silver Blaze.
' All of theses stories show the key features of early crime fiction, which are; a superbly intelligent sleuth with a unique and distinct character, an exposition, a development of plot, typical characters and villains, clues, red herrings and a denouement. Also prominent in the stories are the characters of Holmes and Watson, social and historical references are also used and the language of the time features. The author of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle was born on May 22nd, 1859 in Edinburgh. His parents were Irish-Catholics who were both very artistic. He married Louise Hawkins in 1883 she was also very intelligent.
He was educated in England from the age of 9 till 17. During this time he also excelled in sport. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, alongside other soon-to-be authors James Barrie (aka J. M. Barrie) and Robert Louis Stephenson. One of his lecturers, Dr Joseph Bell, was a master of observation, logic, deduction and diagnosis, and where the idea for Sherlock Holmes was born. His first short story 'the mystery of Sasassa valley' bore much remembrance to his own favourite authors Edgar Allen Poe and Bret Hoarte. It was published in an Edinburgh magazine 'Chamber's Journal.
' Later that year 'The American Tale' as published in 'London Society. ' When he was 20 he joined a whale hunt in the Arctic, which inspired a later book of his, 'Captain of the Pole Star. ' Yet the novel that really boosted his writing credibility was 'Tangled Skein' which characters Sheridan Hope and Ormond Slacker. These names were later revised to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson featuring in the story 'A Study in Scarlet. ' In complete contrast to the character of Sherlock, Conan Doyle was fascinated by the paranormal and even wrote a spiritualistic book later on in his career.
He had 5 children, 2 from his first marriage, Mary and Kingsley and 3 from his second marriage, Jean, Denis and Adrian. His short stories featured in 'Strand' magazine from 1891-1927, a common form of publication at the time, other authors such as Charles Dickens had stories published in there too. By the time that Arthur Conan Doyle was finished with the character Holmes, it had built up such a following that there was a public outrage that he had killed him off. Conan Doyle was flooded by letter and in the end he backed down and wrote a story set before he died.
This still didn't satisfy the public, and his publisher, who also wanted Holmes back, convinced him to bring Sherlock Holmes back from the dead. The Sherlock Holmes stories are written in first person, but aren't narrated by Sherlock Holmes, but by Dr. Watson. We know that he is the closest person to Holmes and he is his greatest and only friend. "This is my intimate friend and associate, Dr Watson. " Dr Watson, as well as being his friend, is his scribe and in the stories documents his cases, which are what the books are.
If Holmes were the narrator then it would give too much of the way Holmes's mind works away, it would also stop the reader from attempting to work out the crime themselves. This way it also keeps his character to be secretive and mysterious. As Watson always goes with Holmes to the crime scene it gives a hands-on account of what happened. It is also told in present tense and that makes it seem as though mystery is being solved currently, this adds suspense as it is almost as if the ending hasn't happened yet. The character of Holmes was originally based on Conan Doyle's lecturer Dr Joseph Bell.
Holmes used skewed logic and deductive skills to solve his cases. He is an unrivalled genius, but never sets out to make a profit, as he never asks for more than his expenses. He has passion for his work and loves the mental stimulation it gives him. He will only do interesting cases and refuses to do any that are too similar or simple to prevent monotony in his work. He loves this stimulation and so when he does not have a case to focus his mind on he takes cocaine. We can tell he finds great enjoyment in his work. "He chuckled and wriggled in his seat as was
his habit in high spirits. " This was his reaction in the 'Red-Headed League' to the case, as he knows it will be interesting and shows an almost child-like excitement. He uses his own method whenever he has the opportunity and uses his brain as often as he can. "Our Rate is presently 531/2 mph" He works this out just to pass the time; it has no affect on the case and it purely for fun. Also in the 'Red-Headed League' He gives Jabez Wilson a very in-depth biography of him that he deduces by observation. He does not miss anything when solving cases because he has this quality.
As well as being a very logical and numerical man he has a passion for the arts. Watson described his as being an "enthusiastic musician, himself being not only a very capable performer, but a composer of no ordinary merit" So we know that he is not just intelligent but artistic as well. In 'Violinland' as he calls it, his dual personality comes into play. He is no longer the clue-hunting sleuth, he is calm and collected and moves along with music. His intellectual and detective abilities outmatch those of Scotland Yard.
For example in 'The Silver Blaze' the inspector believed Fitzroy Simpson guilty of killing John Straker, yet Sherlock Holmes manages to prove them wrong but solving that it was actually 'Silver Blaze' itself. Holmes lives with Watson alone. This is unusual for a man in Victorian times, as they would usually have been married. It is believed that he chose to live like that so he can fulfil what he wants without the distraction of a wife. Also, as Watson is his only companion he probably lives him so he doesn't have to live alone.