Sherlock Holmes is my favorite fictional character. Since I was a kid I’ve always paused at the end each story before Holmes explained everything just to see if I could figure it out for myself. I’ve spent many a lunch hour scratching my beard while trying to work out the clues of one of his adventures. (Only once – when reading The Man with the Twisted Lip – did I actually manage to solve the case on my own. I was in middle school at the time.)
I suppose, as an introvert who likes to figure things out, I think of Sherlock as a kindred spirit. Here’s some stuff not everyone knows about the World’s Most Famous Detective.
The Religious Detective
It’s often assumed that Holmes was an atheist, but people who make that claim have obviously not been reading the same books as I. Observe his conversation in The Adventure of the Naval Treaty:
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers our desires,our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life,not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”
These are not the words of an unbeliever, but of someone who thinks that a higher power is looking out for him. (Also, I thought it was pretty surprising that Sherlock Holmes, of all people, would get sappy while looking at flowers.)
Holmes the Straight Man
Many people will tell you that Holmes was a homosexual, and these people usually say that Watson was gay, too. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but this notion is not supported by the top Holmes scholars because there’s simply no evidence for it in the stories. (Oddly enough, one theory about Holmes being a woman has been taken more seriously by academics than this theory.)
Upon meeting Irene Adler, Holmes remarked that she “had a face a man could die for,” and when the King of Bohemia offered the detective any reward he could name Holmes just asked for the photo of Irene. And Watson’s wonderful (and rather corny) description of falling in love with his wife, in The Sign of the Four, leaves no room for misinterpretation. Watson tried to get his friend interested in dating, once in a while, but Holmes never had the time for it.
So why didn’t Holmes ever have a girlfriend? Aside from his interaction with Irene he’s always described as an asexual person with no romantic interest. Why? Because he was consumed with his work. Have you ever worked on a project so singularly that you had no interest in anything else? Sherlock Holmes is described as being in that state of mind every day – and loving it.
No Chicks Allowed
Holmes thought that ladies were pretty, silly things that were about as useful, and dangerous, as a laced doily. But don’t be misled into thinking that the Holmes stories are sexist; Sherlock was outsmarted more often by women than men, and it probably wouldn’t have been that way if he hadn’t underestimated every woman he saw. He wasn’t always right.
Sherlock the Do-Gooder
In an episode of the UK show Sherlock, the supporting cast can’t agree on why Holmes does what he does. Of course, any casual reader of Holmes stories knows that the detective was granted a fantastic sense of justice and that he could not stand to see bad men getting away with their crimes. (He also loved England and was staunchly devoted to Queen and country, tolerating no disrespect of the crown.) Sherlock Holmes is probably one of the most moral men in all of literature. That is, until he had no cases to solve and lost himself in his cocaine, to Watson’s great outrage.
The Most Egalitarian Crime Fighter
It’s fascinating to watch Holmes deal with the different social strata of his day. He didn’t believe in snobbery and encouraged people to cross social barriers to solve problems. He even made sure to keep the same fee no matter how rich or poor was his client, to the dismay of the wealthy patrons who thought they could secure his attention with their money.
In The Adventure of the Yellow Face, we have what must be the most heart-warming moment in any Holmes story. A posh Englishman discovers that his wife has been hiding a child from him – a child she had from a previous marriage. The woman’s previous husband was black, and she was certain that her husband would be ashamed of a child of mixed heritage, but she was wrong. Upon discovering the child, the man picked her up in his arms and pledged to love her like she was his own. This is not the only time that a Holmes story ends with the hope that the English people would abandon their system of class warfare.
I could write a thousand posts about the neat stuff you’ll find in Holmes stories, but I’ll have to stop for now and just encourage you to take the journey for yourself. Books are journeys, after all, and there’s no better place to start an adventure than 221b Baker Street, if you ask me.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)