The relationship between the legendary detective and his loyal assistant is largely unequal. In terms of intellect, logic, and powers of deduction, Holmes is unequivocally Watson's superior. Yet the uneven dynamic at the heart of this relationship cuts both ways. For in relation to what we might today call emotional intelligence, Watson is streets ahead of Holmes.
If Holmes provides the head of this relationship, it's Watson who supplies the heart. Watson's romantic attachment to Mary Morstan makes him a more recognizably human character than the great detective. Although Watson will never be able to match Holmes in the mystery-solving department, his basic sense of decency and humanity provides his friend with the kind of moral support that he needs. In that sense one could say that in The Sign of Four, Watson fulfills the traditional role of the wife in the Victorian household, an unfailingly loyal helpmate who provides stability, warmth, and much-needed companionship.
In this mystery,...
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