Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. 

A Study in Scarlet is the first Sherlock Holmes story and introduces the characters of Holmes and his loyal partner, Dr. John Watson, as they meet, become flatmates, and solve their first case together. Holmes has a unique way of approaching deduction and extensive knowledge that fascinates Watson; however, as Holmes suggests in the above quote, his knowledge, though extensive, tends to include only what he views as “useful.” 

From a drop of water . . . a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other. So all life is a great chain, the nature of which is known whenever we are shown a single link of it.

Upon reading this statement in a magazine article about logical deduction that Holmes wrote, Watson is doubtful that tiny, nearly imperceptible details can lead to accurate conclusions. However, as he observes Holmes’s skills of deduction at work, Watson realizes the validity of this assertion. It is Holmes’s ability to draw conclusions from small details that makes him the great consulting detective that he is. 

There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.

The detective duo sets out to solve the case of Enoch Drebber’s murder, and Watson decides to take notes during the investigation and manages to create an interesting story. Holmes describes the case as a “study in scarlet,” and Watson decides to make this the title of his story. After this, Watson becomes Holmes’s unofficial chronicler. 

Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l’admire. 

As Watson gets to know Holmes and experiences his powers of deduction at work, he learns that the Scotland Yard detectives, always a step or two behind Holmes, are constantly praised by the newspapers. In this statement, which translates to “A fool always finds a greater fool to admire him,” Holmes quotes Nicolas Boileau, remarking that the Scotland Yard detectives, though “fools,”are always admired by the public. 

There is no satisfaction in vengeance unless the offender has time to realize who it is that strikes him, and why retribution has come upon him.

Part 2 is titled “The Country of the Saints” and focuses on the tragic love story between a woman named Lucy and a man named Jefferson Hope. Hope tells his story in this part and explains his motives for the vengeful murders of Drebber, a Mormon who forced Lucy to marry him instead of Hope, and his assistant, Joseph Stangerson. Hope wanted Drebber and Stangerson to know that he was their murderer in their final moments so that he could avenge Lucy’s forced marriage and death. Through the character of Hope, Doyle examines the nature and intricacies of justice; while Hope is guilty of murder, he was avenging the wrongful abuses and deaths of Lucy and her father.

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



Critical Essays