Brotherhood in Sherlock Holmes

Powerful Essays
The concept of brotherhood is an underlying one in myriad works of the Victorian era. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle highlights a classic image of brotherhood in his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson, but ultimately identifies its shortcomings through the introduction of women who directly influence Holmes and Watson. Similarly, Matthew Arnold expands on the elusiveness of brotherhood and comments on its impossibility by emphasizing the ubiquity of isolation. Friedrich Engels offers a melding of the two by commenting on the unfeasibility of brotherhood when England is so strictly divided between the poor and the middle and upper classes. The three authors ultimately convey that brotherhood is desirable but fleeting, though they each highlight disparate reasons for this conclusion.

The presence of brotherhood in the Sherlock Holmes stories is notable because it occurs primarily between two starkly different men, though Doyle’s assertion through Holmes and Watson that brotherhood is vital does not diminish. Holmes, an intelligent man whose “observations have fairly astounded” (Scarlet 24) Watson serves as a foil to Watson himself, who finds contemporary knowledge of vast importance. This contrasts Holmes’ opinion that “useless facts” (Scarlet 25), like those pertaining to the solar system, serve him no purpose. However, as Watson is a “Doctor of Medicine” (Scarlet 17), their mutual interest in observation and science ultimately strengthens the depth of their relationship, allowing Holmes and Watson to be included a sort of “brotherhood” of science. In fact, in A Study in Scarlet, it is under the umbrella of science, at the “chemical laboratory” (Scarlet 18), that Watson and Holmes first meet. Further, this inclusion ...

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...tached to it, making the repetition of the phrase effective in conveying that the use of the lower class “as mere material” (584) contributes to its inability to equate itself in the smallest way with the bourgeoisie by having the ability to experience the idea of brotherhood under conditions not marked by “filth, ruin, and uninhabitableness” (584).

While the conclusions of Doyle, Arnold and Engels all enforced the idea that brotherhood has its barriers and inhibitors, each asserted the idea in profoundly different ways. Where Doyle said that women interfere with the institution of brotherhood, Arnold praised females. While Arnold insisted that brotherhood is something worth striving for, his ultimate conclusion that the inescapability of isolation makes it impossible aligns with Engels’ view that the consequences of industry make it a goal unattainable for many.
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