Sherlock Holmes - Background to a Phenomenon (Header)
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4. Sherlock Holmes – Cult Hero

4.2. Emotional Roots of the Cult – Conjectures and Ideas

An inquiry into the relationship between the author/ narrator, Sherlock Holmes and the reader, and the emotional connections underpinning these special attractions and the Sherlock Holmes Cult. An critical, speculative interpretation at various levels with examples from A.C. Doyle’s original stories.

"Sherlock Holmes is still the most inspiring personality to me." These words from an authentic entry in an online guest-book (1) speak of deep admiration for a person that never took one step outside a book.
What, then, is so very fascinating and attractive about the World of Sherlock Holmes? Judging by my own experience, I believe that we accept the invitation to integrate the detective into our lives, because the stories reflect some of our basic needs and desires.
Among them, the desire to escape from our everyday-lives and look at things from a different ankle is of vital importance to the Canon. To those who enjoy reading, books are some kind of vehicles that carry them into alternative worlds – there are various reasons why, in this case, readers are especially willing to believe in the world that emerges from the tales:

First of all, Holmes is a complex and fascinating character with a wide range of features, that convinces the public of his existence. In fact, the texts themselves suggest that they were accounts of actual events, as the narrator takes the role of a faithful chronicler, who writes about his private memories from the past and clearly states his own involvement in the cases:

Statements such as these, as well as many allusions to real-life incidences of the time, make the readers believe that Holmes and Watson lived, indeed, in Victorian London - even more so in an époque when people usually trusted in what they read: There is, after all, little more to a man than his biography and his unique traits of character.
Accordingly, the Victorian setting itself plays an important role in the Canon: The stories conjure the romantic image of a world, where "the English servant brings you tea and muffins" to your comfortable armchair in the sitting room, where rattling hansom cabs and the mysterious London fog are common place and where people are well-known for their "elaborate dress" and their "elegant manners".(2)
Many Victorian readers recognised, I imagine, their own dreams in this fictional world: Maybe, Sherlock Holmes held a social status they wanted to obtain, maybe some of his clients resembled them in a way - or maybe the stories held an entirely different promise for some.
Needless to say, the modern reader still falls in to the charm of the tales, but, for him, they speak of a glorious past, when life apparently was less complex and pleasantly different from his own.

And yet, there are two far more powerful forces that draw the readers into the stories: The desire to investigate into the various secretes surrounding us and the essential wish for order and justice, both of which become evident in a babies behaviour: Using all his senses, a small child gradually discovers the world and struggles to come to terms with what it finds out there - when it feels disturbed or even threatened, it begins to cry.
A "rationalist in an irrational world" (P.A. Shreffler)(3) , Sherlock Holmes responds to both of them: In most of his cases, he explains the mystery at hand logically and provides a solution. Following his line of thought , the reader may step by step satisfy his curiosity and see how the disturbing element is eventually eliminated from a client's life. However complex, confusing or even realistic the Word of Sherlock Holmes may appear to be on the surface, at the heart of it, there is always an imperturbable order, constituted by intelligible laws.(4) This has a strong effect on the reader: He may choose to identify with Sherlock Holmes and hope to learn from his cases, he may seek shelter from his own upsetting problems in the better world of the stories giving in to the illusion that some of them might be solved in a similar fashion- or he may, after all, simply enjoy the prickling tension in some of the

A great deal of the fascination for Sherlock Holmes might therefore originate from a combination of these two factors: The stories conjure the image of a better world that appears to be realistic despite its many advantages. In this realm, Sherlock Holmes is the mediator between good and evil forces, an outstanding and exemplary character we may admire and adore. It was undoubtedly Conan Doyle's personal achievement to create such a place in the imagination of innumerable readers.
However, all this may only be part of the truth. It is said that love can't be explained. Perhaps such deep emotional commitment as many readers feel for Sherlock Holmes can never be analysed adequately, either.

Entry in the online guest-book of The Sherlock Holmes Museum by a user called "Razib" (1 / 2003)[Text]
 compare: Ellen F. Higgens ('Female Rivals'), p.138. [Text]
P.A. Shreffler, quoted in: Ellen F. Higgens (‚Female Rivals'), p.138. [Text]
 see also: Chapter 2. [Text]
Ellen F. Higgens follows a similar line of thought (‚Female Rivals', pp.137 -138); for an outline of the typical structure that involves the reader in the cases see: Sandra Kromm ('Feminist Appraisal'), p.269[Text]
Author's Logo · Author: Paul - Christoph Trüper, 2004  - 2006.
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