Summary and Analysis of Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia”
As Doctor Watson made his way down Baker Street, he was struck with the desire to see his longtime friend Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant detective who resided there. He decided to act upon his desire and pay Holmes a visit. While there, Holmes informed Watson about a mysterious letter he had recently received stating the appearance of a man who would request his services. Soon the King of Bohemia was frantically addressing the pair about a woman named Irene Adler who was in possession of an intimate photo that needed immediate retrieval. The photo posed a problem for the King because Irene threatened to send the compromising picture to Bohemia on the day of the King’s marriage to another woman. Holmes accepted the case and set out in disguise to gather information about Irene Adler. He delicately surveyed her home and found out that she had a frequent male visitor who turned out to be her love interest. Holmes deduced that the photo was in her home and then devised a plan to retrieve it. He recruited the help of Watson to pull off the scheme. He went in disguise to Irene’s home, then caused a distraction that allowed him to get inside.
Once in the home, Watson threw a non-intrusive smoke bomb into an open window to create the illusion of a fire in which Irene would run to her most prized possession (the picture) in the hopes of saving it from ruin. This led Holmes right to it. A false alarm was called, and Holmes met Watson outside. Holmes was eager to report to the King that they could retrieve the photo the following morning. When they arrived back at her home, they found the house in disarray. She had already left the country with her new husband. They proceeded to the hiding place of the photo where they found a letter addressed to Holmes and a portrait of only Irene rather than the compromising photo of her and the King. The note read that she had caught on to Holmes by ingenious observation and reasoning of her own, and that the picture was with her in safe storage, and not to be shared with the public of Bohemia . Holmes requested the portrait of Ms. Adler as payment for his services. He kept this photo as a reminder of the woman who had so cleverly out-witted him. Analysis
I greatly preferred Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia” over the other stories in question mainly because of its mysterious nature and innate ability to retain my interest from beginning to end. I also preferred the closed ending of this story over the lingering openness of the others. Author Conan Doyle writes from the point of view of Doctor Watson, a longtime companion and colleague of detective Sherlock Holmes. Through Watson, Doyle characterizes Holmes as a brilliant detective who’s carefully constructed mind made him “the most perfect reasoning and observing machine the world has seen”(21). He also adds that emotions such as love were absent from Holmes because “to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor…”(21). These initial characterizations of Holmes surround him in a cloud of mystery before he is even introduced in the story. Unlike the humdrum, one dimensional characters in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, the mysterious nature of Holmes’ character sparked immediate interest and compelled me to flip the page and continue reading. In fact, Doyle has a remarkable ability to do just that: compel readers to flip the page and continue reading (the main goal of almost all writers). In this story he does so by allowing readers to paint a brilliant picture of Sherlock Holmes (not only his appearance, but the framework of his mind as well) and surrounding scenes, allowing something like a movie to play out in the reader’s mind.
This is exhibited on page 33, paragraph two. Doyle makes note of Holmes physical appearance as well as how Holmes mentally conforms to accurately depict his undercover disguise. The expression of Holmes and visuals created by a delicately expressed setting made this story a clear winner over the others. Another reason I preferred this story is its closed ending. All loose ends are tied up in the resolution of “A Scandal in Bohemia” . It left me feeling more satisfied than the ending of “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” where the family dies and you’re left wondering what exactly happens next. I also did not find the religious ties in O’Connor’s or Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories to my liking, thus further pushing my preference toward Doyle’s story. Overall I preferred “A Scandal in Bohemia” because of Doyle’s ability to capture my attention through his mysterious story line, paint vivid pictures of character and scene, and end the story leaving me satisfied with knowing the outcome.
Beiderwell, Bruce, and Jeffrey Wheeler, eds. The Literary Experience. Boston: Wadsworth, 2008. Print.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Beiderwell and Wheeler. 21-39.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. “This Blessed House.” Beiderwell and Wheeler. 1280-1293.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Beiderwell and Wheeler. 217-229.