What language features and words are used in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books but are not in modern literature today?I'm doing an English assignment where I have to explain the ways...

What language features and words are used in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books but are not in modern literature today?

I'm doing an English assignment where I have to explain the ways English has changed over time, and I'm comparing Sherlock Holmes novels to present day detective novels (i.e Jack Reacher novels) thanks.

Asked on by iainhurn

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The writing in Sherlock Holmes books is pretty standard.  For the most part, it is the same English we use today.  It I just a little more old-fashioned.  However, I would say the greatest difference is the amount of sexist language present in Holmes books. 

Sometimes there are subtly sexist language usages, such as this early description of Mary Mortan in The Sign of Four, a book where Watson is particularly covetous of the female sex.

She must have been more than woman if she did not feel some uneasiness at the strange enterprise upon which we were embarking, yet her self-control was perfect... (ch 3)

This lovely compliment seems to imply that women lack self-control, or are emotional.  Watson has cause to comfort and protect Mary throughout the story.

After the angelic fashion of women, she had borne trouble with a calm face as long as there was someone weaker than herself to support, and I had found her bright and placid by the side of the frightened housekeeper. (ch 7)

Watson is not a bad sort though.  He is not a sexist pig.  He is sympathetic toward women.

From the great black house there sounded through the silent night the saddest and most pitiful of sounds -- the shrill, broken whimpering of a frightened woman.

Holmes, on the other hand, often speaks disparagingly of them.

"Women are never to be entirely trusted -- not the best of them." (ch 9)

Maybe that’s why Holmes never married!  Holmes often makes comments about women as a group, and never in a positive way.  These sexist comments would never be tolerated today, when we have a more even conception of women.

Sources:

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