Themes in the Play
Throughout all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, he uses his refined senses, along with his intelligence, to solve complex crimes.
But what was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle trying to tell us through this iconic character? Let's look at some of the themes in the play, and themes that run through all of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Justice: You Can Do it, Too!
Part of the reason that Sherlock Holmes stories became so popular is that views on crime and criminal behavior changed during the 19th Century.
Sherlock's desire to solve crime goes beyond the simple desire to help the good overcome the bad. Justice is a game for him!
Before this time, a criminal was considered someone who was weak-willed and had a poor education. But a rise in security technology created a criminal that was highly, skilled, organized, and educated.
Some criminal talents at the time include lock-picking, using drills and gun powder to break open locks, and finding innovative ways to wedge open safes.
Beginning in the 1850s, some newspapers would trace connections between the developments of criminal techniques and of security technology. There was the idea that the average policeman or medical professional couldn’t get into the mind of the professional criminal, so newspapers would instead interview police detectives or insiders in the security industry.
Use the National Archive link, to the right, to play detective by analyzing these actual cases from kids arrested in Victorian London.
Sherlock stories appeal to most because the power lies in all of us.
When reading (or watching) one of his adventures, we often imagine that we are solving the crime alongside Holmes. In fact, Dr. Watson serves as a proxy for us - asking the questions that allow us to get inside Sherlock's head so that we can help.
Sherlock often reminds Watson that he has the same tools as Sherlock. We all just need to practice. That's what has made these stories stand the test of time.
The Power of Observation
Sherlock often pieces together a story simply because he has trained himself to observe the smallest things in the world around him.
But that's easier said than done. Quick...how many steps from the door to the place you are right now? See...
Let's dive in a bit more.
Now Try Your Skills:
Class Structures & Systems
Class and money play a HUGE part in the world of Sherlock. People were born into a certain rank, and it was virtually impossible to move upward. The poor stayed poor and often died very young.
What stands out to you after watching these videos? What are the major differences between this time period and our own?
Like with social class, men and women had very specific roles and expectations in Victorian London...
“As well as being strict about class, the Victorians were equally strict about gender roles. It seems hard to believe nowadays, but in the Victorian era, men and women had sharply defined roles in society. They were expected to stay within these roles and fulfil them without complaint.”
After looking through these resources, what are the biggest differences between Sherlock's setting and modern times? How would these gender roles affect the way Sherlock and Watson interact with Lillie Langtry?