"The Red-Headed League" depicts a world in which everyday life is filled with bizarre occurrences. Justify this statement.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the short story "The Red-Headed League," even the great detective Sherlock Holmes thinks the events that occur to Wilson are bizarre. Holmes even tells Watson they both share a "love of all that is bizarre" (para 8), and Wilson's tale certainly fits into that category. Holmes encourages Watson to listen to the bizarre events that occurred.

These events begin with Wilson hiring an assistant for his pawnshop that is willing to work for half of his salary, even though he is worth more. Secondly, it is that same assistant who shows Wilson an advertisement for an opening in the League of Red-headed Men. The requirement for this position is merely to be an adult with red hair. Wilson gets the job, even though there are many men applying for the position, and the hours he will work are perfect for him, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. As well, he is being paid four gold sovereigns a week simply to copy the encyclopedia. Lastly, after eight weeks, the League is mysteriously dissolved, and Wilson loses the job. Wilson goes looking for the man who hired him and discovers that he has gone by two different names, Duncan Ross and William Morris, and no one has heard of him at his supposedly new office.

Holmes and Watson find all the above events bizarre at first. However, Holmes deduces that it was all a ruse so that a burglary could be committed. Appearances can be deceiving, and what appeared bizarre was merely a masterful, criminal plan.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At first glance, it seems that this story does depict a world in which everyday life is filled with bizarre occurrences. The idea of having a league of red-headed man, for instance, or a job where you could be paid well for copying bits of an encyclopedia, certainly supports this view. In addition, the sudden and unexplained closure of this league, which was allegedly founded by a millionaire, also adds weight to the idea of the bizarre in everyday life.

However, as the story progresses, we see that these occurrences are not quite as bizarre as we first think. In fact, all of these strange goings-on are part of a well-conceived, cohesive plan to commit a robbery. It was intended that such bizarre occurrences would direct any suspicions away from John Clay and enable him to steal from the vault of the nearby bank.

Therefore, thanks to Holmes's powers of deduction and his inherent curiosity, the bizarre was proven to be quite the opposite.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial