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What methods did Sherlock Holmes use to solve mysteries in "The Red-Headed League"?

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kirstinpaige15 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 17, 2009 at 5:22 AM via web

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What methods did Sherlock Holmes use to solve mysteries in "The Red-Headed League"?

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted November 1, 2009 at 10:19 AM (Answer #1)

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Sherlock Holmes used reason and deduction from minute clues to solve the puzzles with which he was faced. He begins by demonstrating his prowess in this area to his client in this story. He says to Watson-

 

 “Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”

 

Once his reasoning is revealed as relying on his powers of observation his client is less bewildered –

 

Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. “Well, I never!” said he. “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it after all.”

 

He carefully ascertains that a young man prepared to work for half wages must have another motive for working at the pawnbrokers, and he summarises his observations at the end-

 

“You see, Watson,” he explained …“it was perfectly obvious from the first that the only possible object of this rather fantastic business of the advertisement of the League, and the copying of the Encyclopaedia, must be to get this not over-bright pawnbroker out of the way for a number of hours every day. It was a curious way of managing it, but, really, it would be difficult to suggest a better. The method was no doubt suggested to Clay's ingenious mind by the colour of his accomplice's hair. The £4 a week was a lure which must draw him, and what was it to them, who were playing for thousands? They put in the advertisement, one rogue has the temporary office, the other rogue incites the man to apply for it, and together they manage to secure his absence every morning in the week. From the time that I heard of the assistant having come for half wages, it was obvious to me that he had some strong motive for securing the situation.”

 

As ever, Holmes companion Watson is as impressed as the audience at Holmes’ powers of deduction-

 

“You reasoned it out beautifully,” I exclaimed in unfeigned admiration. “It is so long a chain, and yet every link rings true.”

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