Genre in Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Wells’ War of the Worlds

Genre fiction during 1890 – 1918 challenges ideas of gender to some extent. During this period, known as the ‘age of transition’ or fin de siècle, Victorian writers were ‘in active rebellion against virtually everything the previous generation represented’ (Keating, pg4). Such rebellion can be seen in terms of gender. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells challenged ideas of gender. This paper will argue that these writers challenged ideas of genders through their genre fiction by examining Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Wells’ War of the Worlds. Firstly, the role of observation will be discussed in reference to gender. In both Doyle and Wells’ novel, observations play a large role – Holmes uses observations in order to solve cases. Yet, in ‘Scandal in Bohemia’, Holmes’ observation fails him when he comes across Irene Adler by falling victim to established gender ideas. The narrator in War of the Worlds uses observations as well. The use of the scientific observations makes all that it observes feminine (Attebery, pg52). This affects the perception of the Martians which leads to the downfall of the civilisation. Through this, Wells demonstrates the treatment of women and brings it to the attention of the audience. Secondly, Doyle conveys the instability of the male patriarchy of the previous generation in ‘The Speckled Band’. This shall be discussed in relation to the Woman’s Property Act of 1870-1882 (Hall, pg296), but also to how Holmes represents a new age man of rationalisation and the scientific ideas. Finally, the androgynous Martians will be discussed as posing a threat to the gender ideas and hierarchies within Wells’ novel. Since the Martians fail to fit in with the narrator’s view of gender, it perturbs hi...

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... through 1890 – 1918. Both novels discussed used observation conveyed as a masculine trait to highlight how observations can mislead. Within Doyle’s ‘Scandal in Bohemia’, Holmes’ observation misleads him as he bases his observation on the superficial, seeing Adler as only a woman, not seeing her intelligence which leads to her tricking him. Observation has a role in War of the Worlds, it places the observes into a false sense of security as observation places the observed as feminine. Secondly, Doyle conveys the dying nature of the old patriarchy through Dr Roylott and highlights the physical dominance of it. Holmes manages to defeat this but women are made silent, placed into care of another male. Finally, Wells uses androgyny to convey how masculine figures fear a genderless society as this means there would be no hierarchy as no gender roles could be established.

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