Sherlock Holmes | Example English Literature Essay

Still captivating audiences a hundred and thirty years after his creation, fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes remains an enduring figure within popular culture. The original stories from which the character arose, not only shaped a relatively formative genre, but also persist as Arthur Conan Doyle’s most celebrated literary output. Despite this seemingly timeless popularity, however, the “canon” of Sherlock Holmes—consisting of four novels and fifty-six short stories—has for the most part been rebuffed by the community of scholars. Much of this dismissal stems from a belief that the continued success of the works is rooted in entertainment and nostalgia, as opposed to truly “great” writing; as Christopher Redmond curtly remarks: ‘what Sherlockians do is one thing, what English professors do is generally another’. While it is perhaps fair to assume that the majority of Sherlock readers indulge in the stories for enjoyment rather than anything else, to reduce them to ‘simplified cliché’ in the way that Redmond does, seems somewhat impetuous.  Indeed, Kathryn Wright highlights a tendency by academics to hastily disregard the finer points of the detective oeuvre, affirming: ‘[Conan Doyle’s] work should not be dismissed without fair trial’. With this in mind, then, the essay will challenge 3 traditionally rigid and restrictive views of Sherlockian literature, arguing that beneath a playful exterior of deduction and investigation, lies a rich and informative social commentary on urban life in London during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. 


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