Why Not Both?

In A Study in Emerald, by Neil Gaiman, the narrator and his friend are never named so the reader assumes they are Watson and Sherlock Holmes, but a plot twist at the end leaves the reader wondering if Vernet and his Doctor friend are the real Sherlock and Watson, but what if they are both right?

            In a world were an alien race with green blood and three arms rule the human race, two men become housemates. One of these men is a military veteran with a wounded shoulder, who is our narrator. Our narrator could be Watson, because of the way he is intrigued, yet gets annoyed by his housemate’s actions and words. An example of this is “He was a mystery to me” (423) and “My friend returned to perusing his morning paper. I waited for an explanation with growing impatience. Finally, I could stand it no longer.” (423) The Narrator’s house mate could be Sherlock, because of is arrogant sassy attitude. For example “He smiled thinly. ‘You did not hear the clatter of the brougham several minutes ago?…’” (423) Vernet could be Sherlock, because of his cleverness and the fact that he escaped. As well as the fact that he spoke with the narrator’s friend years before. “ Indeed, I corresponded with you quite profitably two years ago about certain theoretical anomalies in your paper on the Dynamics of an Asteroid. Vernet’s Doctor friend could be Watson, because Watson was a doctor in the military. The Doctor friend also has a limp, and in the BBC Sherlock Watson walked with a limp that Sherlock pointed out. 



  1. Although there is much evidence that either group could be representative of the original Holmes and Watson, I had not thought of the possibility that both pairs could exist at the same time in this story! The beginning of this story seems to be a summary of the beginning of _A Study in Scarlet_ suggesting that the first two characters are Holmes and Watson. Towards the end, one of the other people in the pair of murderers is identified as Watson. This is suggestive of a parallel universe. This might be stretching it, but at beginning, when it mentions the “mirrored surface of the underground lake,” it could have been referencing a future parallel in the story (p. 422). Something emerged from the lake that made the narrator feel a “fear of the world-beneath-the-world akin to panic” (p. 422). The same type of creature in the lake that touched the narrator, was ruling the world on land. This other-worldly influence that came from the “mirrored” lake could have brought about parallel characters. The fact that Henry Camberley (with a fake name) practically worshiped these creatures while the narrator feared them, might be evidence against the claim that they might have represented Holmes and Watson. In _A Study in Scarlet_, Watson was on the same page with Holmes after being informed on details and did not hesitate to help Holmes in the most dangerous matters. This was similar to how doctor and Vernet were both considered Restorationists and were both engaged in the murder of the green blooded creature.

    1. Those lines caught my attention while reading the story as while, but I didn’t put it together until reading your comment. I agree completely. It also goes along with what you said in class about how sometimes you can empathize with the “villain” once you know their backstory. With the knowledge of what the green blooded creatures are really like the Sherlock and Watson (let’s call them “pair 1”) now empathize with the Restorationist Sherlock and Watson “pair 2”, because, in a way, that are one in the same.

  2. While I agree with your evidence and reasoning of why this may show that either pair of men may be Holmes and Watson, I doubt that both pairs may be Holmes and Watson. To make sure that we are debating the same thing, the topic must be clarified. Is the question that this paper starts with asking if the both groups are composed of people named Holmes and Watson or is it asking if the people in the groups are in fact Watson and Holmes but just slightly different?

    I will focus on the first question. My argument for both of the groups not being composed of people named Holmes and Watson is evidenced by the fact that there was no strong reaction to the name Watson. I think everyone would agree that if a person was working on his/her criminal investigation and he/she found out that the murderer had the same name as he/she did, that person would be at least a little surprised. It would just seem too coincidental. The fact that the narrator did not do this makes me believe that the narrator was not named Watson. If you are trying to discuss a different question I would love to hear/discuss it.

  3. I am speaking of the Science Fiction aspect of A Study in Emerald. If we take aliens, parallel universes, and murder you could have one great story. In which case a set of dopplegangers, Sherlock and Watson pair 2, would not be too far a stretch from an earth being ruled by aliens with three arms. If said dopplegangers were to suddenly find themselves in a alternate dimension in which there were said aliens with three arms ruling the human race, I would think that Sherlock and Watson (dopplegangers) would take on alternate identities to get some answers about these aliens. Which is exactly what Vernet and his Doctor friend were doing. As for the pairs reacting to one anthers names I would like to draw your attention to the letter Vernet wrote, “I am surprise you did not announce yourself under your own name, for it is a fine one, and one that does you credit.” (434) This can be seen as Sherlock (Vernet/Doppleganger) being his sassy, arrogant self as they share the same name and there fore in complimenting this world’s Sherlock he is also inflating his own ego.

    Thinking about how the dopplegangers came to this alien infested earth made me also wonder can they return home or not and then I saw this, “I will not sign myself Vernet, and until the hunt if done and the world restored, I beg you to think of me simply as, Rache.” (435) What if they are from a world in which the alien rulers have already turned on the humans and that is where they saw all the horrible things the aliens do? What if the reason he goes by Rache is because he is doing this for revenge for their world, the world that he couldn’t save?

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