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Compare and contrast the narrators of Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia" and Gasskell's...

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manaljaber | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:11 AM via web

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Compare and contrast the narrators of Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia" and Gasskell's "Our Society," chapter 1 of Cranford.

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:06 AM (Answer #1)

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The narrators of Cranford, in the chapter "Our Society," and "A Scandal in Bohemia" have few similarities between them. The narrators are, however, both first person narrators who have roles in the events or action of the stories but who are not the characters of primary interest. In "Our Society," the narrator is ironic and, though a member of the Cranford community, maintains a little distanced objectivity. This is accomplished through the structural device of having the narrator be a past resident of Cranford and a present visitor.

In "A Scandal," the narrator is not ironic; he sets things forth with honestly and admiration. He is himself a little distanced having become married and moved out from the shared rooms at Baker Street. This distance is overcome though through the narrator's enthusiasm for Holmes and the mystery afoot.

"Our Society" is humorously told, as for example, the passage dealing with Miss Betsy Baker's Alderney cow that now has to go about her pasture in grey flannel due to a fall into a lime-pit, which relieved her of her covering of cow hair:

[Miss Betsy] set to work, and by-and-by all the town turned out to see the Alderney meekly going to her pasture, clad in dark grey flannel. I have watched her myself many a time. Do you ever see cows dressed in grey flannel in London?

"A Scandal" is told with seriousness and not with humor. It is told, on the other hand, with a tone of the same seriousness, and excitement that Holmes exudes when engrossed in a challenging criminal case. An example of the tone is the narrator's description of Holmes:

Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between ... the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.

"Our Society" is told in a leisurely, languid manner by the narrator, a manner in keeping with the "elegant" lifestyle cultivated in Cranford where all the men are sent off on ships or with regiments or in some other way--all men except Captain Brown. "A Scandal" is told with a great deal of energy as is seen in the narrator's observation of Holmes:

I was seized with a keen desire to see Holmes ... and, even as I looked up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him. ... He was at work again.

Cranford's "Our Society" sets out a psychological examination of the emotions and cognition of the residents of Cranford and what happens to them when a different sort of man,

He immediately and quietly assumed the man's place in the room; attended to every one's wants, lessened the pretty maid-servant's labour by waiting on empty cups and bread-and-butterless ladies; ... as if it were a matter of course for the strong to attend to the weak .....

comes to Cranford bringing a loud voice, firm opinions, and two daughters with him. "A Scandal in Bohemia" sets out a study in reasoning and deduction as the narrator follows and assists Holmes in a challenging criminal problem. As Holmes says to Watson:

I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless servant girl?

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