Free «Sherlock Holmes as a Pragmatic Figure» Essay

Sherlock Holmes as a Pragmatic Figure

The world of literature consists of the variety of characters that are drawn from life and experience. Some characters are easily recognized and understood, others are more complicated and able to perplex readers. The creation of the British writer Arthur Conan Doyle represents a diversity of features that are implemented in the character of Sherlock Holmes. This unique fictional character has a number of interesting traits that contribute to the popularity of the private detective and appeal to the audience. Among the personality traits we distinguish pragmatism as a central feature of Sherlock Holmes. The current paper examines pragmatism as the dominant quality of this character with the examples of two stories – A Study in Scarlet and A Scandal in Bohemia. The paper discusses how pragmatism shapes other qualities of Sherlock Holmes helps to develop his career, and explains widespread popularity of his image.

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Pragmatism as the main feature of the character is defined in the paper as a way of understanding things and methods of dealing with different situations on the basis of logic and reason. For the first time readers become acquainted with the detective and his consuming pragmatism in the story A Scandal in Bohemia. At the beginning of the first chapter Sherlock Holmes is introduced as a man, who is devoid of feelings and emotional involvement: “all emotions … were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind” (Doyle 3). The accent is on the mind. Thus it is emphasized in the story that Sherlock Holmes is “the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen ...” (Doyle 3). In this sentence the word “machine” implies that Sherlock Holmes does not operate with feelings, but works with facts and responds logically to everything. The same idea may be found in the story A Study in Scarlet. The Chapter One that is called “Mr. Sherlock Holmes” develops the pragmatic approach to life. The very formulation of phrases that Sherlock Holmes uses to describe a period of his life suggests that he is indeed a rational machine. For example, he uses the following phrases: I soon realized, making up my mind, I had come to this conclusion, I learned, and other (Doyle 5). There is no place for feelings, ideas, and general concepts. The information is simply stored and organized in the brain; it resembles the work of machines.

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Sherlock Holmes develops his personality by learning facts, making conclusions, and avoiding emotions that he finds misleading. It is the influence of his pragmatic character. In A Study in Scarlet he says that “a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose” (Doyle 3).In this case, the mind of Sherlock Holmes is furnished strictly with facts. This is extremely practical, “so practical that I depend upon them for my bread and cheese” (Doyle 11). Pragmatism is inextricably linked tobeing a detective. It may be said that the spirit of observation and intellectualism that readers appreciate in Sherlock Holmes is a part of pragmatism.

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Another character of the stories, which is under consideration, helps to support the idea that pragmatism is the most significant feature of Sherlock Holmes. The detective is assisted by a physician John Watson. The personalities of Watson and Holmes create a contrast that allows for evaluation of pragmatism. Watson is the one, who observes the actions of Holmes and tries to understand his motives. Furthermore, dialogues between Holmes and his assistant help the detective to make the decisions and reveal the details of every situation. It is in these dialogues that Holmes’ character may be observed. Watson complements Holmes and an average reader may identify himself with the physician who concludes in A Study in Scarlet: “I had no idea that such individuals exists outside of stories” (Doyle 11). This is the general impression that the main character creates. The remarks make the stories about Sherlock Holmes even more fascinating. Although, Watson cannot explain the character of Sherlock, he may appreciate it and be inspired by the detective. The author does not allow his readers to understand the heroes completely.

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Arthur Conan Doyle figuratively compels people to discover the traits of Sherlock Holmes, but does not allow readers to reveal them fully. Furthermore, Holmes implicitly criticizes Watson and other characters for the lack of pragmatism. Sherlock shows his disapproval, when John speculates with evidence in order to solve a puzzle in the story A Scandal in Bohemia: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts” (Doyle 4). It should be noted that the exact idea is expressed by Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment” (Doyle 13). Thus pragmatism is the dominant quality of the character that leaves a long-lasting impression on the audience.

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Readers are mesmerized by Sherlock Holmes, his logic, and methods of investigation. He is known to be the best detective. While analyzing this character in details it may be seen that pragmatism is the foundation of other features that make the detective a real professional and accentuate his abilities to deduct. It is because Holmes was created to be pragmatic that he is also:

  1. Observant. Holmes has an open mind that does not concentrate on one thing but absorbs all the aspects and rationalizes them. If he were an emotional man (that is excluded by pragmatism), his attitude towards some things would be biased, based on the perceptions rather than analysis. He is able to observe and see more than, for example, Watson, because his thoughts are not affected by emotional displays.
  2. Reasonable. Holmes is careful, when he makes some conclusions. His pragmatism influences his work. Holmes tends to confirm the evidence and validate his empiric knowledge.
  3. Direct. When dealing with problems in a sensible and practical way, Sherlock Holmes does not bother about politeness. For example, he may leave the scene without saying goodbye. This directness that is founded on pragmatism helps him to think, examine everything carefully and not be distracted.

These traits and other qualities of Sherlock Holmes make him so efficient because of the pragmatic observations and the approach to life that the hero has adopted. Watson, who understands how good the detective is, says to him at the end of A Study in Scarlet: “Your merits should be publicly recognized” (Doyle 59). We may say that the good traits of Sherlock Holmes are publicly acknowledged.

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The paper discusses pragmatism as the aspect of Sherlock Holmes that may be seen in two texts (A Study in Scarlet and A Scandal in Bohemia). This feature makes the detective popular and appealing to the audience. The trait of pragmatism is connected to other attributes of Sherlock Holmes (for example, his observance, directness, and reasonable nature). In conclusion, it is important to say that his mannerism and methods are partly based on pragmatism. In Watson’s descriptions of Holmes, the detective is shown as a man with no emotional attachments and feelings. He functions like a machine. This extraordinary personality is an inspiration to people, who value reason and sensibility. In the effort to understand Sherlock Holmes his pragmatism should be taken into consideration.

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