What is the presentation of women in the Sherlock Holmes story?
please help me with this. The question means how are women portrayed in Sherlock Holmes stories for example how is Helen Stoner portrayed in The Speckled band Story. Thank you
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It is fair to say that women are largely presented in a secondary role in the Holmes stories. To be more specific, they are usually treated with respect by Holmes and Watson, but they are usually seen as needing help. You might think of this is being a fairly straightforward representation of period attitudes. Men were assumed to be the ones in charge, the ones creating problems, and the ones solving them. If a woman came to Holmes with a problem, he rushed in to help. Helen Stoner is a good example. She brought Holmes a problem and he was glad to help—but the resulting portrait is largely one of passive helplessness.
The exception, of course, is the wonderful Irene Adler, whose brain is shown to be every bit as sharp as Sherlock's in the wonderful story "A Scandal in Bohemia."
Holmes and Watson are certainly courteous toward women, but Holmes demonstrates several times throughout the stories that he doesn't respect them. In the Sign of the Four, for example, he says, “Women are never to be entirely trusted—not the best of them.” In "A Case of Identity," Holmes discovers a female client's step-father has been posing as her lover in order to keep her money in the family. Rather than tell the woman the truth so that she might make her own decision about how to proceed, Holmes shelters her and hides the truth from her. "You may remember the old Persian saying, ‘There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.’" To Holmes, women are emotional, irrational creatures. The women in the stories hardly prove him wrong, either. In The Sign of the Four, Mary, Watson, and Holmes experience the same shocking events, yet it is Mary who is described as "weak and helpless, shaken in mind and nerve." In "The Speckled Band" Helen is plagued by vague fears and suspicions that can only be properly looked into by Holmes, a rational, emotionless man. Women in these stories are constantly portrayed as helpless victims. That is, of course, when they are allowed to be characters at all. After Mary serves her purpose as the focus of a marriage plot, she is barely mentioned in the stories, and when she is it is in a vague reference about her staying with family somewhere. Then, of course, she disappears from the stories entirely.
I actually think Irene Adler continues to contribute to the overall portrayal of women in the Sherlock Holmes stories. It is true that she is independent, resourceful, and intelligent enough to outwit Holmes. However, whenever this intelligence is brought up, it is pointed to as a strange male quality she possesses rather than a quality a woman could actually have. For instance, when the king of Bohemia first describes her intelligence to Homes and Watson, he says, "You do not know her, but she has a soul of steel. She has the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men." Adler is a woman, and as a woman beauty and daintiness ("She is the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet.") are natural, female qualities to possess. Her mind, however, displays a level of intelligence reserved for men, and therefore she has a man's mind. Adler is also an opera singer by profession, which during the nineteenth century was not considered respectable, so it is more understandable that she has other traits not in keeping with proper women, as she already shows a tendency toward "unfeminine" roles. She is also not English, which is another mark against her.
Other aspects of Adler's behavior play right into Holmes' idea of how women are. For starters, the whole reason she apparently is a threat to the King is that she plans to spitefully show the photograph of the two of them to the new woman he is with, which is usual behavior for such emotional, irrational creatures as women. Then, when trying to figure out where she hid the photograph, Holmes guesses she would not have given it to anyone for safe keeping because "Women are naturally secretive." He is correct; the photo is in her house somewhere. When he tries to get her to reveal where she hid it, Holmes relies on his knowledge about women and what they value. "[During a fire], a married woman grabs at her baby; an unmarried one reaches for her jewel-box. Now it was clear to me that our lady of to-day had nothing in the house more precious to her than what we are in quest of. She would rush to secure it." He is once again correct. Adler rushes to the photograph's location when Holmes pretends there is a fire in her house. In other words, Irene Adler is a "typical" woman in every way but in her mind, which is not that of a woman at all. This means, then, that Holmes was not beaten by a woman, but by a man's intellect in a woman's body, which is a much safer set-up for a story written in a patriarchal culture.
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