Practice Makes Perfect


Doyle used the idea from a quote in his text as the basis for the overarching structure of his book A Study in Scarlet. He presented the importance of making unbiased judgments in the first part of the book but proceeded to test the reader’s observance of this idea. “’It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgement’” (27). When Sherlock Holmes says this, he is stating it in a matter-of-fact sort of way, implying that this should be obvious. The use of the word “capital” shows that doing this is among the worst mistakes that can be made. This is shown through the fact that capital crimes are the worst crimes that can be committed and are punishable by death. The strong emphasis on the phrase “biases the judgement” is very reasonable because as scientists, preventing opinion from affecting their conclusions is crucial. Although this quote is about not having a preconceived notion of the crime, it also applies to not judging a person before you know the details of their life. This is arguably the main theme of the book because Doyle organized the book in a way that the reader heard the terrible crimes the “criminal” committed and judged the criminal as a terrible person; then Doyle showed the events that caused the “criminal” to pursue and murder the men. In the second part of the book, it is revealed that the criminal was actually a good person and that the reader made an incorrect judgment because the reader did not follow the advice of Sherlock.

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2 comments

  1. I think your analysis is spot on. Doyle is definitely teaching the reader not to judge a book by its cover with the case of Jefferson Hope. I think Doyle had one more purpose for how he explained Hope’s story. He wanted to say that cold calculating analytics can’t always explain the entirety of the story. Holmes was still curious by the end of the book, and took his own advice, listening to the entirety of Hope’s tale. He got the details of the murder correctly but he didn’t know about Hope’s act of passion. Emotions like love and anger are often irrational and hard to predict. In this way, Doyle shows the reader, who after the first part of the book is probably beginning to think like Holmes, not to forget the human element of crime. Hope’s story gives a human face to an otherwise seemingly cold blooded crime. It’s the part of the case that Holmes probably does not think about. He is more interested in solving the puzzle than learning about the motives or the people involved. Doyle wants the reader to look at all the evidence before making a judgment, even if emotions from personal stories take over and cloud what might be a rational judgment. It is his way of showing that murder isn’t as elementary as Sherlock Holmes would make it seem.

    1. I think that you had a great analysis and definitely think this is an important theme throughout the story. I, however, disagree with the last sentence of your paragraph: “In the second part of the book, it is revealed that the criminal was actually a good person and that the reader made an incorrect judgment because the reader did not follow the advice of Sherlock.” My first disagreement would be that you say the criminal is revealed as a good person. I don’t one hundred percent disagree, I just think you may have used too broad of a statement. Criminals can have understandable motives, but honestly, do you really think there is ever a justifiable reason for killing someone? An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind eh? Secondly I don’t love the way you phrased that the reader made an incorrect judgement, because, you don’t know what every single person who reads this is thinking. You can assume to an extent, but, you can’t be sure. Yes the writer sets up the reader for the thoughts you are assuming of them but everyone is different. Lastly Sherlock did give advice to the reader at the beginning, but the reader may not necessarily made the wrong judgement because they didn’t follow his advice. It could have been due to past events in their own life that led them to whatever conclusion they made. I really did like your interpretation though! Just a few places where I think you could have made some broad words a little more specific to really emphasize your point!

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