It is a little difficult to understand exactly why Jabez Wilson comes to Sherlock Holmes and what he hopes the great detective will do for him. Wilson has only the very faintest hope of regaining his post at the Red-Headed League with the extremely welcome four gold sovereigns every week....
It is a little difficult to understand exactly why Jabez Wilson comes to Sherlock Holmes and what he hopes the great detective will do for him. Wilson has only the very faintest hope of regaining his post at the Red-Headed League with the extremely welcome four gold sovereigns every week. The author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, must realize that this is a rather sticky wicket to get through in plotting his story, so he has Holmes himself bring up the same question many readers would ask.
"On the contrary, you are, as I understand, richer by some £30, to say nothing of the minute knowledge which you have gained on every subject which comes under the letter A. You have lost nothing by them.”
“No, sir. But I want to find out about them, and who they are, and what their object was in playing this prank—if it was a prank—upon me. It was a pretty expensive joke for them, for it cost them two and thirty pounds.”
So Jabez Wilson mainly wants to find out why the man named Duncan Ross and whoever his associates are have played a prank on him and made him feel like a fool for spending eight weeks copying the detailed information in the Encyclopedia Britannica. He obviously doesn't like people laughing at him. His blazing red hair has made him hypersensitive because kids probably poked fun at him in school and he has been the butt of stupid jokes for most of his life just because of his red hair. When Holmes and Watson laugh at him earlier, he flares up:
“I cannot see that there is anything very funny,” cried our client, flushing up to the roots of his flaming head. “If you can do nothing better than laugh at me, I can go elsewhere.”
The fact is he cannot go elsewhere because he is trying to get an expert to help him for nothing. Sherlock Holmes is his only hope--and yet he risks alienating him by losing his temper. It is because he was fooled by pranksters who used his red hair for the purpose that Wilson is sufficiently outraged to want to track them down. Everybody has an Achilles heel, and Wilson's unusually brilliant red hair is his. Perhaps he did not intend to ask Sherlock Holmes to go out and investigate the case for him but only to give him some free advice. Holmes hasn't committed himself to doing anything except to listen to Wilson's story until the detective senses that there must be something much more important to the matter. Earlier he tells Watson:
As far as I have heard, it is impossible for me to say whether the present case is an instance of crime or not, but the course of event is certainly among the most singular that I have ever listened to.
It seems likely that Holmes would not have gotten involved in Wilson's case at all if the detective hadn't suspected that it was indeed "an instance of crime."