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In "The Red-Headed League," why does Jabez Wilson come to see Sherlock Holmes?

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cheddle | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 8, 2008 at 8:37 AM via web

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In "The Red-Headed League," why does Jabez Wilson come to see Sherlock Holmes?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 8, 2008 at 9:33 AM (Answer #1)

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Wilson finds a sign on the door of the office where he'd been working for the league. It reads as follows:

"THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE
IS
DISSOLVED.
October 9, 1890."

He comes to see Holmes because his unexpected benefit (the league) is gone, because he doesn't know why, and because it is a mystery.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 12, 2014 at 12:00 AM (Answer #2)

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Wilson shows in various ways that he cares a great deal about money. He might be called a miser. He hires John Clay because Clay offers to work for half the customary wages. Wilson doesn't even subscribe to a newspaper, which helps to explain why he had never heard about the Red-Headed League before Clay told him about it. Of course, there was nothing to read about it in the newspapers because it had never existed. But at least Wilson would have been suspicious if he had been subscribing to a newspaper and had never seen a word about it before Clay showed him the ad. Wilson is captivated by the idea of being able to earn four pounds a week just for copying articles out of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and he is devastated when the job abruptly ends. (This is a possible weakness in the plot. Clay might have been smarter to keep Wilson employed at the League offices for a little while longer, rather than posting that notice that the League had been dissolved before he had gotten his hands on the French gold.) Wilson comes to Sherlock Holmes with his petty problem because he has heard that the great detective sometimes takes cases on a pro bono basis if they interest him. Wilson is actually hoping to get the services of the famous Sherlock Holmes for nothing. It is quite true that Holmes takes cases free of charge if they interest him, and Wilson is lucky that his case interests Holmes very much because he sees that there must be something of extreme seriousness behind this so-called Red-Headed League.

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