Doyle’s Views on the Mormons


In Part 2 of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet the Mormon faith plays a very large role in the events that transpire. As we learn more and more about the motives behind Hope’s murder and hear the background story, the Mormon faith arises again and again. All in all, Doyle portrays the Mormon faith in A Study in Scarlet in a very negative, cultish light.

John Ferrier’s distaste for the establishment of polygamy helps to portray the Mormon faith in a negative light. Through the first four chapters of Part 2 John Ferrier is the narrator, and the reader sees Mormon views through his eyes. To a certain extent Ferrier adopts the Mormon faith, but will not budge when it comes to polygamy. “He had always been determined, deep down in his resolute heart, that nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such a marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace (Doyle 88).” Clearly, Ferrier’s language shows his disgust for Mormon marriage customs, and since a narrator can often be viewed as an extension of the author, this quote is clear evidence that Doyle didn’t particularly care for Mormons. He uses words such as “shame” and “disgrace” to describe a Mormon marriage, and even goes to say, “such a marriage he regarded as no marriage at all.” These are very strong statements that serve to make a polygamous marriage an extremely undesirable outcome. Furthermore, Ferrier is an extremely reliable narrator. He has few vices, he works hard, doesn’t exhibit signs of madness, and strives to do what’s best for who he loves, which in this case is his adopted daughter. Therefore, if such a reliable, upstanding man views Mormon polygamy as such a disgrace, Doyle obviously wanted the reader to view it in the same light. Through narrator reliability, Mormon customs are shown as twisted. In conclusion, John Ferrier’s dislike of polygamy is just one of the ways that Doyle portrays a negative view of Mormonism in A Study in Scarlet.

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2 comments

  1. I agree that Conan Doyle has put much effort on portraying the Mormons negatively. When I looked at my notes in the earlier part of Part 2, I feel like John Ferrier was not very willing to join the Mormons actually. He said, “Guess ‘ll come with you on any terms”. The way I interpreted this is that he joined them because he wanted to survive. He was desperate and believed that he and little Lucy were going to die. Then, these Mormons appeared out of the blue. He might think that they are the only people who he could seek help from. Together with your evidence above (how he thought that a marriage with Mormons is a shame or disgrace), we can conclude that Conan Doyle personally view Mormonism as an evil religion. We are just unsure why he had such view.

  2. I agree with you that Ferrier seems to be a reliable narrator. If Doyle made him seem like a madman, his views of the Mormon faith and people might have been ignored by the reader. The fact that Ferrier is seemly normal and logical helps the reader identify with him and respect his opinions. Ferrier took on the Mormon faith making it hard for the reader to believe that he had any hatred toward the Mormons. Ferrier expressed his opinion that polygamy was a “shame and a disgrace.” He could have expressed this only because he did not want his daughter to leave him for some other man. The reader could assume that he might have enjoyed her company, or been over protective of her, but his true hatred for polygamy and the Mormons was displayed when Ferrier went so far as to lose his temper and threaten the two sons of the elders (p. 94). Doyle seemed to emphasize and validate Ferrier’s disgust toward polygamy by writing out a scene where Ferrier expressed his loathing to the other characters in the book, and not just to the reader through narration.

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