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Monday, February 13, 2012

Quintessential Quote #38

"My dear Watson, you were born to be a man of action. Your instinct is always to do something energetic."
-- Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Ch. 13

That's our Watson -- man of action. So much so that this quote stood out for me in my recent re-readingt of The Hound, even though it is not a famous one.

Watson is in action from the first page of A Study in Scarlet and throughout the canon, shot nerves and wound "in one of my limbs" not withstanding. "Have revolver, will travel" could be his motto, whether with Holmes or at his bidding. Three times at least he is Holmes's partner in burglary, and a third time is willing.

In "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client," he characteristically offers, "I'll go and thrash the hide off him if you say the word."

But what about Holmes -- is he not also a man of action, a boxer and fencer? Certainly he visits the scene of the crime (unlike Mycroft Holmes or Nero Wolfe), tracks like a sleuthhound, gads about in disguises, carries a lead-filled hunting crop, and engages in fisticuffs when necessary.

But there is a difference. Holmes has an introspective side, so much so that I would include music and tobacco among his crime-solving techniques. In at least a third of the cases he resorts to one or the other as he ponders a solution. He also spends long hours in study of things that interest him, from early English charters to bees. It's not the lack of action that sends him to the cocaine syringe, but the lack of mental stimulation.

Watson, on the other hand, is portrayed by BBC Sherlock as an action addict. I think they had it about right. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I think when Holmes made comments such as the above, he was being a bit condescending - even though it's more or less true. He generally respected Watson, but in remarks like that I definitely detect some condescension.

    Holmes's issues with boredom are somewhat complex. He does seem to crave action at times, but it has to be action because of a mental stimulus, so mainly he craves the mental stimulus.

    I think the new BBC Sherlock more or less got it right with Watson's character. And of course, there is leeway with different interpretations. If anything I think they played up the fact that he's bored after returning from Afghanistan a little too much. Yes, Watson is a man of action, he probably gets a bit bored without it - but mainly he is an extremely loyal person who needs a friend, or a wife, or both, who he can offer support to.