How does Holmes's outlook on life at the beginning of "The Red-Headed League" compare or contrast with his outlook at the end of the story?

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Sherlock Holmes has a cynical view of human nature that remains unchanged throughout the story "The Red-Headed League." At the beginning of the story, Holmes tells Dr. Watson that "for strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination.” In other words, Holmes believes that life and people are stranger, and at times more wicked, than anything the imagination could produce. Watson initially disagrees with him.

However, in unraveling the case presented in the story, Holmes uncovers the dastardly deeds of a pawnbroker's assistant going under the alias Vincent Spaulding. Holmes hears that Jabez Wilson, the owner of the pawn shop where Spaulding works, has been enticed by Spaulding to work at a sinecure that is provided for him only because he has red hair. When Holmes first hears of this sinecure, he is immediately suspicious. He later tells Watson:

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.

Holmes figures out that Spaulding, whose real name is John Clay, is merely trying to get his boss out of his shop for several hours so that he can build a tunnel to rob a bank nearby. Holmes is initially suspicious of this scheme, and his suspicions are proven to be true. He believes humans are capable of dastardly acts, and he does not waver in this belief.

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At the beginning of "The Red-Headed League," Holmes displays a positive and enthusiastic outlook on life. He speaks "cordially" to Watson, for example, and he refers to the narrative of his visitor, Jabez Wilson, as "one of the most singular" that he has heard for some time. In short, the "unique" facts of Wilson's story revitalize and rejuvenate Holmes.

By the end of the story, however, Holmes's outlook on life has changed significantly. His enthusiasm is replaced by "ennui" (boredom/ lethargy), and his thoughts return to the "commonplaces of existence." For Holmes, life is meaningless if he does not have an interesting and unique case to work on, and this is shown by the quote Holmes tells Watson: "L'homme c'est rien—l'oeuvre c'est tout." This roughly translates to "man is nothing and work is everything." This typifies Holmes's attitude at the end of the story: he feels like a man without purpose. 

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