In Hound of the Baskervilles, what does the discussion of the walking stick reveal about the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Certainly the opening scene of The Hound of the Baskervilles reveals a certain amount of mutual admiration of both friends on the surface, but a closer examination also suggests evidence of strain in the relationship between Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes.  Sherlock, who is so very keen when it comes to details, often overlooks his friend Watson's efforts on his behalf; however, as Watson gives his appraisal of the walking stick, Sherlock recognizes his efforts with praise:

“I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous but you are a conductor of light" (Chapter 1).

Holmes' statement, while genuinely felt, does come across exceedingly patronizing to the reader, but Watson takes it as sincere praise of his abilities, even though only seconds later, Holmes undercuts his analysis by announcing that Watson's theories were mostly erroneous.  Fortunately, Watson is an extremely good friend to Holmes, proving himself both forgiving and incredibly loyal time and again.

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