By Natasha Truttmann
for the course Watching the Detectives
Instructor: Laura Mitchell
The Epitome of Lousy Dates
Ever since detective fiction gained popularity in the nineteenth-century, we have observed the establishment of many significant detectives. To date, the most famous continues to be Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1886. Sherlock Holmes is well known for his deductive reasoning, as well as his practical use of forensic science. Holmes, unfortunately, is burdened with some unflattering characteristics that would clash in a social setting. Holmes may be the epitome of great detectives, but being introverted, antisocial, and overly analytical would make him an impossible dinner companion.
Sherlock Holmes has a brilliant mind, but he prefers to stay in his own head. He is extremely introverted in this way, as he rarely lets anybody in. Before even meeting Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, Watson says he prefers a roommate “of studious and quiet habits” (20). Later on, Holmes describes himself to Watson; “I get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my mouth for days on end. You must not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I’ll soon be right” (55). With this attitude, Holmes certainly does not seem like the kind of man who would care for a sit down meal in a fancy restaurant. A nice night out requires some intimate conversation, which is exactly what Holmes is uncomfortable with. On one occasion in A Study in Scarlet, Watson describes his new roommate as being “quiet in his ways, and his habits were regular.” Watson also notes Holmes’ consistent schedule, saying it was “rare for [Holmes] to be up after ten at night, and he had invariably breakfasted and gone out before I rose in the morning” (70). A night out would disrupt his routine. Conclusively, being somebody’s dinner companion would be difficult for Holmes with his introverted nature.
Sherlock Holmes is also extremely antisocial; he seems to make an effort to push others away. In The Five Orange Pips, when someone knocks at the door, Watson asks, “Some friend of yours, perhaps?” Holmes replies, “Except yourself I have none. I do not encourage visitors” (4-5). Superimposing Holmes into a social setting, such as a busy restaurant, would go against this general rule. Also, when receiving a monogrammed envelope in The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor, Holmes comments, “This looks like one of those unwelcome social summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie” (4). Clearly, any type of socialization disinterests Holmes; it would undoubtedly take a lot of work to coax him to go to a crowded restaurant. He would rather remain detached from it all, when there is no mystery to be solved. Watson’s friend Stamford accurately describes the detective in A Study in Scarlet: “He is not a man to be drawn out, though he can be communicative when the fancy seizes him.” (19). Holmes would be too uncomfortable in a social setting, which would make him an incompatible dinner companion.
Sherlock Holmes is, by default, extremely analytical. Because of this skill, he is able to piece together numerous abstract clues into one definitive conclusion. His preciseness in this matter, however, may disturb a pleasant evening out. In A Study in Scarlet, after meeting Holmes for the first time, Watson is amazed by the detective’s skill. “How the deuce did he know that I had come from Afghanistan?” he asks. Stamford replies, “That’s just his little peculiarity . . . You’ll find him a knotty problem, though. I’ll wager he learns more about you than you about him” (64-65, 67). Holmes takes note of every little detail of his surroundings; in The Red-Headed League, Holmes is able to tell that a man has worked as a manual labourer, simply because his right hand is larger than his left (17). He is also able to tell that the man has been to China, based on the coloring of the man’s tattoo (23). In The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Holmes studies a simple black hat and is able to deduce that its owner is middle aged, has foresight, and leads a sedentary life (27). In The Man with the Twisted Lip, Holmes instantly knows that the address on an envelope was written with hesitation (113). While he works to survey those in the restaurant with him, he would be ignoring his date. Holmes’ analytical mind would prevent him from being an ideal dinner companion.
Sherlock Holmes is the most famous consulting detective in literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote sixty stories about the character; since then, countless additional works have also featured him. The public loves Holmes for his deductive reasoning, as well as his practical use of forensic science. Holmes, however, has the tendency to be extremely introverted; he is quiet in his ways, and prefers to figure out a case on his own. He is also antisocial, as he makes an effort to dissuade visitors, and steer away from social events. Holmes is also, naturally, very analytical; his mind is always at work trying to piece together clues. These characteristics make for a fantastic sleuth, but for a horrible dinner companion. Sherlock Holmes is a prime example of all great detectives, but to the person sitting across from him, he would just be a lousy date.
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