How Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Created Sherlock Holmes Such a Realistic Character


Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish writer born in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 22, 1859.

He was born to Charles Altamont Doyle and Mary Foley. His father was a chronic alcoholic and his mother was well educated and a master storyteller. Arthur was greatly influenced by his mother and he became a good storyteller too.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

He followed a career in medicine whereas one would have expected him to follow an artistic one due to family influence. He tried his hand in writing short stories. Later on he started writing novels and his first novel A Tangled Skein put him in the limelight as an author. His second novel A Study in Scarlet did very well. In the novel, he introduced his audience to an immortal character by the name of Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock become very famous and he is known across the world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes as a realistic character who has remained a very influential fictional detective.

Creation of Sherlock Holmes

Conan succeeded in making Sherlock realistic because he did not just create a scientific detective but he had to make the character very fascinating (Davies ix). The character was extraordinary in that he captured the reader with his style of solving crimes. Sherlock Holmes is a detective character in Conan’s work. Sherlock did not become famous instantly until Conan started publishing The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in a fiction magazine called The Strand that the fame of Sherlock Holmes catapulted. Sherlock stories captivated the readers and their appetite for more stories was insatiable. Conan enjoyed the money that came with the publishing of the stories but he was not very happy because the stories overshadowed his series works.

Fascination with Sherlock

Arthur created a very realistic character in Sherlock Holmes and his influence can be seen in movies, television, books, plays among others. Arthur managed to create the immortal character of Sherlock by making him a brilliant human being who taps into the human aspirations and fears. The character uses his brainpower to come up with solutions to problems and analysis human behavior. He is a character the reader or audience is able to relate with hence makes him very inspirational. The character appeared in four novels and fifty-six short stories. Sherlock is able to see people’s minds he is a person that everyone would like to be or at least have by their side.

He uses his powers and smart brain in a positive way and many people come to him when they are in trouble. The character makes things right and thus he is very captivating. He is both a superman and a normal human being and the later characteristic makes him realistic. For instance, in The Sign of Four, Sherlock is shown as a character that is very domineering and only concerned with finding solutions to problems. In fact, his friend Watson fears upsetting him thus giving him heroic characteristic.

Excellent skills

Detective Sherlock is realistic because he solves issues that are ordinary using his extra ordinary skills in deductive reasoning.

The author was able to create a realistic character in Sherlock by making him to have traits that a normal human being has for instance he has flaws such as smoking cocaine in the novel The Sigh of Four. Moreover, the detective acts just as an ordinary human being would act in certain circumstances when he is trying to solve cases. For instance, he bends the truth and at times out rightly breaks the law by lying to the police and hiding evidence if he feels it is the right thing to do.

More importantly, the author was able to create a realistic character by giving him an unimpeachable morality and excellent deductive skills (Gruesser 143).

Ordinary issues

The character Sherlock addressed issues that were happening in the society such as justice and life’s general concerns. The readers could identify with such issues.

Conan also mentioned real places in his novels thus making it appear as if Sherlock was real. For this reasons, Sherlock appeared realistic to the readers (Redmond 139). The author was able to create a realistic character because he provided people with novels that deal with ordinary issues and kept the reader guessing what was going to happen next. The books are very engaging and the reader becomes very involved in the book such that some people have been unable to distinguish whether Sherlock is a fictional or real character. They followed the life of Sherlock and his detective work keenly. To that effect, many studies have been done and a debate goes on whether Sherlock was real or not. Such an instance shows that Conan created a realistic character in Sherlock such that when he killed him in the story work; The Final Problem there was a public outcry as people protested the killing of their favorite character.

It is said that some men put on black robes and matched in protest as they mourned the demise of Sherlock. Another case illustrates how realistic Sherlock was as Conan talks of old men who would come to him and tell him that they had read about Sherlock Holmes in their childhood. However, this could not have been possible because the stories had not been written by the time the old men were young boys (Dalrymple 1). Such an incidence could only have happened because the character was very realistic that those who read the stories felt like they had known about Sherlock all their lives. The stories appeal to the people The hero of the novels Sherlock is a human being who comes to the rescue of the innocent.

In many instances, the innocent have no one to turn to because they lack economic or social means. However, Sherlock comes to the rescue of all and saves them. He does not care about money and often turns down cases of wealthy people to take on cases of people without means as long as they interest him. He is able to solve crimes that proof difficult to the police. His ability to solve crimes that the police have failed to resolve makes him realistic to his readers because many times the police are unable to solve crimes brought to their attention and the matters remain unresolved. Thus, if Sherlock can resolve such crimes and bring criminals to book he becomes very important to the readers and they believe in him making him a real character that everyone would wish lived in their community to solve problems. In addition, he is a man who does ordinary things that his readers would enjoy doing such as orchestral music.

He also goes to the theater when he is not working.

Solving crimes in ordinary places

Detective Holmes solves problems that are committed by ordinary people by unveiling their sources of evil and bringing them to justice. He solves the major problems in the streets in the novel A study in Scarlet by reconstructing and creating identity. He is a detective who understands that by living human beings leave traces. He uses these traces to solve crimes. He observes the things that are neglected and by putting together traces, he is able to come up with clues that enable him in resolving mysterious crimes. More importantly, the detective is not guided by official guidelines and he is free to work as he deems fit.


Dr. Watson Hall is a friend of Sherlock and through him; we are able to learn more about Sherlock. Their relationship satisfies emotionally and through it, readers see the possibility and beauty of plutonic relationships. The author presents Sherlock as cold and unemotional and a person only interested in solving crimes. However, through his friend and sidekick Watson, the human side of Sherlock is revealed.

Sherlock’s love and loyalty towards his friend Watson was revealed when Sherlock thought his friend had sustained serious bullet wounds as narrated by Watson in The adventure of the Three Garridebs. Watson says that at that moment he saw the love and loyalty that Sherlock had for him because he saw his lips shaking and his eyes dim with concern. Watson gives us an inside look into Sherlock’s life and character and we are able to learn a great deal about him such as the kind of words he uses, cigarettes he smokes. Watson tells us that Sherlock was eccentric and did not take a great concern in tidiness and orderliness.

For example he kept his cigars in a coalscuttle and had unread correspondence in his room. Moreover, he was a hoarder and kept stacks of documents all over his room. He could also starve himself when working on a case by skipping meals.

The description shows that Sherlock was an ordinary man. Through his friend, Canon creates a real character as opposed to a perfect hero who the people cannot relate to by showing us his shortcomings as a human being. Through Watson, one is able to understand how deduction is done and hence one becomes involved in the detective work of Sherlock making him more so realistic (Harper 70).

The reader is involved in the work of detection through participating possible solutions to the crimes. He therefore becomes like a real person to the reader who sees him or herself getting involved in the work of another human being.


Sherlock is realistic because he is a character who does not stop in his quest for answers even when he encounters a dead end. He believes that knowledge must be found to solve a problem through clues and observation. He goes ahead and gathers clues even without knowing whether they will lead to any outcome.

His desire to keep moving on and the idea of progress makes not only realistic, but also appealing to the reader. The reader is encouraged to remain focused until they find a solution to whatever problem they encounter (Harper 70).

Different detective story

The detective story by Conan is different from other detective stories written. The difference is notable in the lack of vulgarity. The author writes a new kind of detective through the character Sherlock and the stories though ingenious can appeal to those who like to read for pleasure as well as those who have an interest in detective work. The author has written detective stories that can be read by people from different lifestyles and each will find something appealing about a book such as A Scarlet Study.

The story is intellectual and respectable (Harper 70).

Up-to-date detection

The detective Sherlock is a calculating man. He is not as other detectives portrayed in previous detective works. The clues in some of the detectives written earlier on were so obvious that even an ordinary person could see the outcome without much trouble and would not even need to call the police to solve the crime. Conversely, Sherlock the detective keeps the reader guessing because his clues are not straightforward and require deductive reasoning to solve. The deductive element in Sherlock’s style of detection appeals to the intellect hence appears valid and real.


Sherlock is a humorous man as when his friend brings it to his attention that the earth goes around the sun in A Study in Scarlet he tells him that he will now have to forget that fact. He says so because he believes that our brains have a finite capacity for holding knowledge and thus by learning meaningless things they take up space that would have been used to store useful information.

Through his admission that he did not know how the solar system works we see he is a normal person who does not know everything even though he only seeks to know things that might help him in his line of work. He is a man who does not like to show off and when they find a solution to a crime he tells Watson that was elementary. Such a man is bound to appear real to people and form an attachment.

Vivid description

The creator of Sherlock was able to create such a realistic character through description. The author has used description that creates a mental picture in the mind of the reader of the man called Sherlock. Moreover, the illustrations done for shylock have also helped to create a realistic character of Sherlock. The author describes the gestures that Sherlock makes when he is thinking and they make Sherlock look realistic.

Author’s life influence in his work

Dr. Joseph Bell inspired Sir Canon in creating the fictional character called Sherlock Holmes. Canon worked with Dr. Bell at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and it was during this time that Canon got the inspiration for his famous character. He says that Dr.

Bell could draw conclusions from observing small things that one would ordinarily ignore and make conclusions from them (Lycett 53-54). Sir Henry Littlejohn also inspired Conan. Sir Henry taught forensic science and thus Canon wanted to create a character that would use forensic science to solve crimes (Doyle 88).

Sir Henry provided Canon with a base for combining crime detection and medical investigation as seen through the detective Sherlock as he unravels murders. Canon also drew inspiration about his character from Dr. Bryan Charles Waller who was his mother’s friend and had studied at the University of Edinburgh where canon later joined to undertake his studies in medicine. The studies in medicine gave Canon an opportunity to meet other authors such as James Stevenson and his teacher Dr. Bell (Brackett 121). The qualities of the people he met and especially those of Dr. Bell are found in Sherlock (“Sir Arthur Biography” 1; Sherlock 1). Sir Conan says that he was educated to be very critical in thought during his medical thoughts under Dr.

Bell who had a special gift in observation. He says that he observed Dr. Bell at work and he could tell the illnesses that his patients had before they could even tell him anything. He was able to pick their ailments as well as their occupations and residences. Thus, he developed an interest in reading detective stories and he was fascinated by how results would be obtained by chance. He decided to write a detective story in which crime would be treated in the same way that Dr.

Bell treated diseases using science (Davies viii). The author was able to create a realistic character because he reflects his own qualities. For example when Canon dedicated The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Bell, he wrote to him and told him “You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and you know it” (The Sherlock Holmes 1). Dr. Bell having been Conan’s lecturer and colleague must have seen that the author drew from his personal life and experiences in writing about Sherlock. A number of writers have pointed out that Conan may have drawn Holmes from Dr.

Bell but “the real detective was Conan himself “ (Haycraft xvi)Thus, he was able to write realistically because he was drawing from real experiences hence made Sherlock seem real. Furthermore, Conan who came from an aristocratic Irish family identified with the aristocratic history. He had received a good education and even though he was struggling in his career “he considered himself to be a gentleman and gave his fictional detective a similar status” (Harper 69). A family environment influences a person life. The kind of human relationships that one forms with the members of their family make a good source for author’s materials. Conan had a strong mother whom he says influenced her greatly. She was very strong and he derived his happiness when communicating to her through letters. On the other hand, his father was an alcoholic.

He was not a positive figure in his life. The difficulty surrounding his family influenced him in writing stories that people could relate to because they addressed everyday issues and hence made them realistic. In the novel The Sign of Four, the author addresses the issue of domestic violence. Domestic violence occurs in the society even though some instances go unreported. He shows that greed can lead to domestic violence and Roylott attempts to kill his stepdaughter so that he can continue to have control over her fortune. He knew that stepdaughters would have control of their fortune once they got married. He is self centered and materialistic and thus attempts to hold on to the fortune. He kills Helen’s sister and when Helen becomes engaged, he attempts to kill her but fortunately, detective Sherlock saves her from the claws of death.

Sherlock send the snake that Roylott had sent to kill Helen and it ends up killing him (Haynsworth 469-470). The attention of the readers is captured by search an event because it shows that sometimes violence may recoil back to the violent. The fact that the issues that Sherlock deal with are relatable to the reader makes the character realistic and very appealing. Conan was a man who was both gentle and fierce.

This nature may explain why Sherlock was at times very gentle especially when he showed concern for his friend and at times ruthless as long as he uncovered crimes. He was also tenacious and did not waiver from a cause he believed in until he had found a solution. This character trait may have influenced him in writing about Sherlock a detective who did not give up until he found answers to questions he had in his cases.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created an immortal character Sherlock Holmes who has lived through centuries.

The character is adapted in various artistic works and though many people may not know about the original Sherlock, they have encountered him in one way or another. The ability of the author to create a realistic character is proved by the popularity of the character that made science detection very famous and the styles used by Sherlock are used today in solving crimes. It is also ironical that the character that Conan tried to kill at one point has carried his legacy thus far and will always keep the name of the author alive through his appeal to readers and audiences. The character Sherlock shows that a person’s work can outlive them.

Works Cited

Brackett, Virginia. Beginnings through the 19th century. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2006. Print.

Dalrymple, Theodore. “The eternal detective.” National Criterion, 24. 3 (2005), 4-8. Davies, David Stuart. Shadows of Sherlock Holmes.

London: Wordsworth Editions, 1998. Print. Doyle, A. Conan (1961). The boys’ Sherlock Holmes, New & Enlarged Edition. New York: Harper & Row.

Print. Gruesser, John Culler. A Century of Detection: Twenty Great Mystery Stories, 1841-1940. North Carolina: McFarland, 2010.

Print. Harper, Lila Marz. “Clues in the street: Sherlock Holmes, Martin Hewitt and Mean Streets.”The Journal of Popular Culture, 42.1 (2009), 67-89. Haycraft, Howard. The Boys’ Sherlock Holmes: A Selection from the Works of a Conan Doyle. New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2005.

Print. Haynsworth, Leslie. “Sensational adventures: Sherlock Holmes and his generic past.

”English Literature in Transition, 44.4 (2001), 459-485. Lycett, Andrew. The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. New York: Free Press, 2007. Print.

Redmond, Christopher. Sherlock Holmes Handbook. Ed. 2. Dundurn Press Ltd., 2009. Print Sherlock Holmes. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.http://www.britannica.

com/EBchecked/topic/269523/Sherlock-Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Biography. n.d.

Web. 14 Apr. 2011.http://www.sherlockholmesonline.

org/biography/index.htm The Sherlock Holmes. n.

d. Web. 14 Apr.



I'm Mary!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out