The Red-headed League How does Sherlock Holmes compare and contrast with Dr. Watson?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been depicted in many motion pictures and television series over the years. Holmes is invariably portrayed as tall, thin, nervous, sharp-featured, ascetic- and cerebral-looking, introspective, introverted, and, of course, highly intelligent. Watson is depicted as stocky or portly. He has an entirely different type of physique from that of his friend. Watson is much more of an extrovert, which is why he is able to take such a keen interest in Holmes and has become his "Boswell." An extrovert's interests are directed outward, while those of an introvert like Holmes are directed inward. Holmes is absorbed in his own mental processes. He loves having problems to solve. Watson makes an excellent companion for a man like Holmes because he is tolerant, sympathetic, understanding, easy-going, phlegmatic--many of the things Holmes is not. Holmes can be quick-tempered, demanding, selfish, impatient, hard to live with. Holmes could be described as choleric and Watson as phlegmatic, to use two old Greek terms.

Watson says that Holmes favors a "bohemian" lifestyle. By that he means that Holmes disdains all conventional behavior. He hates social functions and any kind of formal occasions. The term "introvert" did not exist in Victorian times, although there were plenty of introverts who were not classified as such. Holmes is a quintessential introvert, whereas Watson is pretty much the opposite.

Both men like good food, whiskey, cigars, comfortable furniture, and lots of reading material, including the daily newspapers. They are self-indulgent loafers. The characters of Holmes and Watson are largely drawn from the two characters invented by Edgar Allan Poe for his stories "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter." Poe explains that these two men, the narrator and C. Auguste Dupin, struck up a friendship on the basis of the fact that they both happened to be looking for the same old book.

Our first meeting was at an obscure library in the Rue Montmartre, where the accident of our both being in search of the same very rare and very remarkable volume, brought us into closer communion. We saw each other again and again. I was deeply interested in the little family history which he detailed to me with all that candor which a Frenchman indulges whenever mere self is the theme. I was astonished, too, at the vast extent of his reading; and, above all, I felt my soul enkindled within me by the wild fervor, and the vivid freshness of his imagination. Seeking in Paris the objects I then sought, I felt that the society of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price; and this feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length arranged that we should live together during my stay in the city; and as my worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his own, I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long deserted through superstitions into which we did not inquire, and tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue

Arthur Conan Doyle freely admitted his indebtedness to the American genius for his creation of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes and Watson both enjoy reading and lounging in their easy chairs. For a long time they enjoy the freedom of financially independent bachelors who can do pretty much as they please. The cases that occasionally pop up do not occupy much of their time (for instance, the Red-Headed League mystery is solved in one day), and they provide enough money for Holmes to live in comfort at 221B Baker Street with Mrs. Hudson to take care of all his needs. Watson presumably has a pension and some income from investments. Eventually Watson marries and sets up his own home where he resumes his medical practice on a small scale, but he keeps in touch with his friend and always manages to find time to get involved in Holmes's cases. Holmes retains the rooms at Baker Street, which he can easily afford now because he has so many clients clamoring for his services, not only in England but abroad.

Neither Holmes nor Watson have other friends. This is another reason they are so attached to each other. They really like each other, although Holmes is not the type of man to display much affection or any other kind of emotion. They are both politically conservative. They like things to stay just the way they are, and they feel they contribute to society by acting in the interests of justice, law and order, and Victorian virtues. They are both intrigued by the infinite variety of humanity. They enjoy meeting interesting specimens of mankind, and they both take an interest in solving problems--although Holmes is far ahead of Watson in capability. Watson admires Holmes and tries to imitate his methods, usually with limited success. Holmes appreciates Watson's interest, admiration, and especially his loyalty. Holmes brings excitement into Watson's life, as well as the lives of Doyle's readers. Watson gives Holmes companionship, sympathy, and human contact. Watson, as Holmes frequently tells him, is helpful to Holmes in his analytical reasoning because Watson often asks thought-provoking questions.

Holmes is undoubtedly financially indebted to Watson because Watson's stories have made Holmes famous. Meanwhile, Watson is indebted to Holmes for providing the material for all those stories.

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seaofknowledge | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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"The Adventure of the Red Headed League" is the second story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published in 1892.

This is one of the earlier stories featuring the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend and companion Dr. John Watson. So the reader is just now starting to see the differences and similarities between the two characters.

As Sherlock Holmes mentions in the beginning of this story, Watson shares his "love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life" ("The Adventure of the Red Headed League," pg. 1). So we know that both Holmes and Watson love adventure. Holmes, by his natural interest in crime, is attracted towards strange and unordinary incidents. Watson, having been an army doctor, is brave and courageous in the face of danger. He too dislikes the boring routine of life and always takes up Holmes' offer to go after criminals in London. So both men have a strong liking for adventure and risk.

As for their differences, Holmes is definitely sharper when it comes to his deduction and reasoning skills. He often tells Watson that he sees but does not observe. So Holmes has a talent for collecting facts by close observation and then drawing conclusions, theories based on those facts that almost always turn out to be true.

Another difference between Holmes and Watson is Holmes's intuition about things. Something that may be seen as small or important for Watson and others may appear very important and vital for Holmes. Holmes will often go after those small details and may solve entire cases thanks to his intuition. So Holmes is a more intuitive man than Watson. Nothing is too trivial for him.

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abass01 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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The Red-headed League

How does Sherlock Holmes compare and contrast with Dr. Watson?

By comparison we can say they have the same motivations.then they chase criminals toghether.But by contrast they are too different for sherlock H.is more inteligent,smart in deducing facts and more dynamic than Watson

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