What Makes Sherlock Holmes Such A Great Character?

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, Sherlock Holmes. Whether it’s the books; the movies, the BBC TV show or the abomination that is Elementary. I love it all, because I find the character of Sherlock Holmes fascinating. Sherlock Holmes is far from your typical private investigator. I believe he’s one of the most complex fictional characters ever authored, and here’s why.

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The Art of Holmesian Deduction.
Perhaps the most apparent strength in Sherlock Holmes’ character is his ability to draw large conclusions from the smallest of observations. In modern society we’ve become accustomed to not observing, and our busy minds often cause us to ignore important details. I often find even myself neglecting the most obvious of details, even if its glaring right in my face. But Holmes’ mind is so focused that he’s able to take in the tiniest details and gather sufficient information to help him close cases.

As children we all dreamed of being able to fly like Superman, or fall from the skies like Batman, or swing from buildings like Spiderman. But as an adult, all I want is the power of Holmesian Deduction (which by the way is now an official term, Google it!).

The Bohemian Aspect.
Sherlock Holmes is clearly a bohemian, and who doesn’t find bohemianism somehow cool? Despite Sherlock’s understanding of the world through observation, he lives an unconventional lifestyle, straying far from the standards of society. He lives an experimental and adventurous life, and this makes it hard for him to settle with regular people. Dr. Watson is sadly as close as Sherlock could ever get to stability. But it’s this very lifestyle that allows Sherlock to be the extraordinary man that he is. His freedom to experiment helps him test out theories and keeps his mind sharp.

His understanding of human emotion & behavior.
Not only can Sherlock Holmes use his powers of deduction to solve problems, but he’s also a psychological mastermind. He is able to understand and predict human behaviour, even if he cannot empathize. What makes this aspect of him so interesting is the next point I wanted to highlight…

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His inability to empathize.
As I described above, Sherlock clearly understands human emotion and behaviour, but he chooses to suppress his own emotions as he believes they obstruct him from thinking logically. It takes a strong character to hold in their own feelings like this, but even so he must be holding onto all this emotion somewhere. Some people label Sherlock a sociopath, but although he does display some of the trails, I don’t believe this to be the case. Sherlock isn’t exactly anti-social, as he is never resistant towards others. It’s just that his intelligence with human affairs deems him incapable of being in sync with other people. Sherlock does not lie or deceive others, on the contrary he is always bluntly honest. This level of honesty often offends, and Sherlock is incapable of feeling guilt and remorse. This alone makes it difficult for him to sustain friendships.

The reason Dr. Watson is able to remain as Sherlock’s companion so long is because he’s also fascinated by Sherlock’s intellect, and this often plays to Sherlock’s ego.

His ability to block out useless information.
One ability that Sherlock posses that I always found interesting was his ability to forget information he deems useless, as not to forget something else that could potentially have some use. He treats his mind like a hard-disk drive, only remembering details he feels are of importance. An example of this is in “A Study in Scarlet” when Watson is stunned by Sherlock’s ignorance to the solar system. Holmes explains that he does his best to forget any information that is not relevant to his existence. Sherlock then gives an intriguing explanation of his ignorance.

“You see,” he explained, “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 difficulty laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

Maybe this explains why I was never a car lover, or a footy fan.

There’s much more that makes Sherlock an interesting subject. I haven’t even mentioned his occasional experimental drug use; which he uses as a method to stimulate his brain when he doesn’t have any cases to work on. But hopefully I’ve provided enough insight on how interesting a character Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left the world with. I actually wonder how many students of psychology out there are fans of the Sherlock Holmes character, as although he is a fictional character, his mind is an interesting one to explore. It’s important to note that Arthur Conan Doyle did actually base the character on two people he knew. So Sherlock may not be real, but I’m sure even today there are many out there with his various personality traits.

On that note I must retreat to practice my Holmesian Deduction.