How Foreigners And Woman Were Perceived

1768 Words8 Pages
“A woman is a foreign land,

of which, though there he settle young,

A man will ne'er quite understand . . .”

Patmore- “The Foreign Land”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” is much more than another

installment of the much beloved detective Sherlock Holmes using his amazing deductive reasoning to

solve a case. It is also a way to examine the accepted practice of degradation of woman and the

xenophobic attitudes that were prevalent in Victorian England. The importance of this examination is

its relevance to understanding the attitudes and practices not only accepted but expected during the

Victorian Era. The text shows that women were as disrespected and dehumanized as their foreign

counterparts throughout the story. “The implications of Conan Doyle's construction of foreign and

female subjects are not to be underestimated. . . the narrative communicates a “type” that tells

the reader how to view the foreign [and the female]” (Favor). There are too many parallels between the

perceptions of the two to be ignored and so our examination is afoot.

Much like the “wandering gypsies” encamped “upon the few acres of bramble-covered land,”

Helen Stoner is hidden from genteel English society. (752) She has arrived at Baker Street “dressed in

black and heavily veiled,” the implication being that strict Victorian social protocol has forced her to

disguise her true identity and seek help from Sherlock Holmes in a cloak of darkness.(750) Holmes

himself underscores the seemingly impropriety and therefore desperation of her arrival as he tells Dr.

Watson,“Now when young ladies wander about the metropolis at this hour of the morning, and knock sleepy people ...

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and any further communication about her reactions seems unnecessary to Watson. (Hall)

Both the foreign and the female were marginalized, dehumanized, and considered inferior to

their male English counterparts. For the female, being English herself was not enough to ensure her

anything approaching equal treatment. Her abusive treatment by her stepfather echos the attitudes and

treatment of the gypsies themselves. The refusal of her fiancee to take her concerns and feelings

seriously underscores the insensitivity directed towards not only the the gypsies but anything

considered non-English throughout the story. The foreign and the female live hidden lives,

overshadowed and controlled by the implicit and implied dominance of the English male, including

the much beloved character, Sherlock Holmes.

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