Discussion Topic

Key events and the climax of "The Red-Headed League."


The key events in "The Red-Headed League" include Jabez Wilson being hired for a peculiar job, Sherlock Holmes investigating the League's legitimacy, and discovering a plot to rob a bank. The climax occurs when Holmes and the police catch the criminals in the act of tunneling into the bank vault, revealing the true purpose behind the League.

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What is the climax of "The Red-Headed League"?

The climax occurs when the criminals are caught robbing the bank.

The climax of a story is when things change, or the most exciting point.  In a mystery, most of the time is spent trying to find the criminal, so the climax would be the moment when the criminal is caught.

A shopkeeper named Jabez Wilson, who happens to be overweight and have red hair, comes to hire Holmes to find out what happened to his job with the “Red-headed League.”  Holmes deduces that his assistant is suspicious, because of his behavior and Wilson’s description, and they go to his shop to determine what is going on.

Once Holmes is there, he notices some things about the assistant.  The “knees of his trousers” give him away as planning something in the basement (where, kneeling, he would get dirt on his knees).  Holmes tells Watson that he is the man.

“Smart fellow, that,” observed Holmes as we walked away. “He is, in my judgment, the fourth smartest man in London, and for daring I am not sure that he has not a claim to be third. I have known something of him before.”

Of course, he is John Clay, “the murderer, thief, smasher, and forger”.  He came up with the creative plan of robbing the bank next to the shop via the basement.  Holmes figured this out.  The only thing to do was wait to catch them in the act.  When Clay and Archie break out, Holmes, Watson, Mr. Merryweather of the bank, two inspectors, and an officer are waiting.  Holmes has it all planned out.  This is the exciting climax.

“It's no use, John Clay,” said Holmes blandly. “You have no chance at all.”

“So I see,” the other answered with the utmost coolness. “I fancy that my pal is all right, though I see you have got his coat-tails.”

“There are three men waiting for him at the door,” said Holmes.

It works quite well.  Holmes stops the bank robbery, and catches the robbers.  He solves the mystery of the “Red-headed League” too.  In the end, though, poor Wilson is the one who lost his £4 a week job!

Watson is impressed, once again, that Holmes could deduce so much of the case with so little information.  He tells Watson that he is just happy that the case stopped him from being bored.  This case is a perfect example of how Holmes's mind and memory help him solve cases quickly, and see a case where no one else would.  He knew the story of the "Red-Headed League" was just odd enough to follow up on.

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What is the climax of "The Red-Headed League"?

This famous Sherlock Holmes story wraps up with very little action.  However, the most exciting scene and the turning point of the story is the scene in the bank, when the police pull John Clay out of the tunnel.  It is after this that all is revealed and the mystery of the League is solved.

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What are some key events in "The Red-Headed League"?

The key events of the story, in chronological order, are as follows:

  • The City and Suburban Bank gets a shipment of 30,000 gold napoleons.
  • John Clay interviews for a job as assistant to Jabez Wilson under the name of Vincent Spaulding.
  • After Spaulding has worked for Wilson a month, he places an ad for the Red-Headed League, shows it to Wilson, and accompanies him to the interview with his (Spaulding's) accomplice.
  • Wilson gets hired by and begins working for the Red-Headed League.
  • While Wilson is away each day, Spaulding digs a tunnel from the pawnshop to the bank.
  • After eight weeks of working there, Wilson learns the league has been dissolved.
  • Wilson visits Holmes to see if he can find out why the league was dissolved.
  • Holmes and Watson visit the area of Wilson's pawnshop and then attend a music concert.
  • Holmes contacts Scotland Yard and the bank manager about the impending robbery.
  • Holmes, Watson, Jones, and Merryweather arrive in the bank vault and wait in the dark.
  • John Clay comes up through the floor through the tunnel he has dug from Wilson's shop into the vault where he is captured and arrested.
  • Holmes explains the case to Watson.

Some of these events are narrated in the story, and some must be pieced together from Wilson's and Holmes's explanations.

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What are the main events of "The Red-headed League"?

The first main event in the story is when Watson arrives at Sherlock Holmes’s house and he has a visitor by the name of Mr. Wilson.  Mr. Holmes asks Watson to stay because he is interested in the unusual, and Mr. Wilson has quite an unusual story to tell.

Mr. Wilson has sought Holmes’s help because he was recently hired by the Red-headed League and paid well to sit 4 hours a day in an office copying an encyclopedia.  He is upset when one day the office just closes down.

He held up a piece of white cardboard about the size of a sheet of note-paper. It read in this fashion:




October 9, 1890. (p. 10)

Holmes and Watson’s reaction is to burst out laughing, but Holmes admits that the case is interesting and agrees to take it.

Holmes thinks for a while and decides to visit Wilson’s shop surreptitiously and meet his assistant.  He recognizes him and notes that his trousers are dirty at the knees.  His suspicions are confirmed when he taps the sidewalk to see if it is hollow.

Holmes arranges for a policeman named Jones to wait in the bank with him, and they apprehend the criminal.

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What are the most important things that happen in "The Red-Headed League"?

The first most important event that happen in the story are that John Clay discovered that Mr. Wilson’s shop was perfectly placed for them to dig a tunnel to the bank.  Then Clay got himself a job under an assumed name, so that he could persuade Wilson.  He placed an ad about the “Red-headed League” and showed Wilson, encouraging him to apply because his hair was so red.  Wilson did, and got the job—which turned out to be copying the encyclopedia.

The case piques Holmes’s interest, and he and John go to check out the store.  It does not take Holmes long to realize the bank is right there, and he invites the cops to arrest Clay.

The police agree with Holmes that Clay is an unusually brilliant criminal.

John Clay, the murderer, thief, smasher, and forger. He's a young man, Mr. Merryweather, but he is at the head of his profession, and I would rather have my bracelets on him than on any criminal in London.

 Of course, they are successful.  The mystery of the “Red-headed League” is solved, a robbery is averted, and a master criminal is caught.  Just another day on the job for the illustrious Sherlock Holmes!

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