Discuss with reference of three of the Sherlock Holmes stories you have read, the statement that ‘Holmes’ too often puts himself above the law.’ In your response you should consider Holmes’ relationship with the police.
Sherlock Holmes’ is constantly putting himself above the law. However on rare occasions he realises he can’t do this and depends on the police for their assistance.
The three stories which can be used in order to support my argument are, ‘The Cardboard Box’ which is about a package being sent to Miss.Cushing containing two ears. ‘Silver Blaze’ which is about the murder of John Strakner and a missing horse, and ‘The Empty House’ which is about Holmes’ return and the murder of Ronald Adir.
Holmes’ character reflects on his attitude towards the law. Holmes is well educated and from a high social class this is why he sees himself as being above the law. In some ways Holmes is a show off. An example of this is in ‘The Cardboard Box’ when Holmes does not want to be associated with the case.
“I should prefer that you would not mention my name at all in connection with the case”
Holmes does not want to be associated with the case as he sees himself above the law, and is too good for cases as simple as this, he chooses “to be associated with those crimes which present some difficulty in their solution.” Here we can see Holmes is showing off as he says this to Inspector Lesterade and we can see he is putting himself above the law.
A reason for Holmes putting himself above the law may be because he is encouraged by other people to do so, such as Watson and the police themselves. In ‘Silver Blaze’ Holmes is asked if he would like to help with the case.
“On Tuesday evening I received telegrams, both from Colonel Ross… and Inspector Gregory…inviting my co-operation.”
Here we can see that Holmes has been asked to help by both the police and the public, which encourages him to put his self above the law.
As Holmes is encouraged by other people, this may be a reason to why he is always in command. Holmes is always in control in a case and is the one who is telling people what to do. In ‘Silver Blaze’ Holmes takes control of the case by taking the law into his own hands.
“…Simpson becomes eliminated from the case and our attention centres upon Strakner and his wife.”
Here Holmes is telling Watson and Inspector Gregory that Simpson is eliminated, when this should be the police’s decision not Homes’. It is also an example of Holmes putting himself above the law.
Another example of Holmes putting himself in control of a case is in ‘Silver Blaze’ when he under estimates the police.
“I shall now recapitulate what the police have done in the matter.”
Inspector Gregory has already looked at the tracks, But Holmes comes on to the case and does it again taking no notice of what Inspector Gregory told him about the tracks. This is an example of Holmes taking control of a case and putting himself above the law.
In many cases Holmes is sarcastic to the police and puts himself above the law by acting as if he does not need them.
“My dear Inspector you surpass yourself” (Silver Blaze)
Here Holmes is acting as if he knows everything and is showing a low expectation of Inspector Gregory, he is seeing himself as above the law.
However in some cases like ‘The Empty House’ Holmes needs the police and he uses them for their man power and also as he is not able to make an arrest. In this case Holmes manages to grab the criminal, but the criminal gets the better of him, so Holmes’ only option is to whistle for the police. This is an example of Holmes not putting himself above the law as he realises he needs them.
Another example of Holmes using the police for his own needs is in ‘The Empty House’. In this case Holmes does not want to be associated with the case as he does not want publicity because he does not want people to know he is alive. Holmes says to Lesterade:
“I do not propose to appear in the matter at all. To you only belongs the credit of the remarkable arrest which you have effected.”
Here holmes is using the police but at the same time being sarcastic, he goes on being sarcastic by then saying:
“Yes Lesterade, I congratulate you with your usual happy mixture of cunning and audacity you have got him.”
By being sarcastic Holmes is in some ways putting himself above the law he is also doing this by using them for his own needs which shows he is in control.
Holmes is successful in solving cases due to his investigation techniques which are more sophisticated than the police. An example of one of these techniques is in ‘Silver Blaze’ when he uses a magnifying glass to study the tracks on the floor. After Inspector Gregory studying the tracks Holmes then goes over them, this is because Inspector Gregory is only using his eyes, when Holmes gets down on the floor and studies the tracks with a magnifying glass.
Another example of Holmes having better investigation techniques is in ‘The Empty House’. Holmes is more advanced than the police as he has his own filing system giving records of criminals.
“…give me down my index of biography’s.”
By being more advanced we can see that Holmes is above the law.
A reason why Holmes’ investigation techniques were successful is because at the time it was Victorian England. Today Holmes’ techniques are considered to be ‘early forensic science’. The fact that it was Victorian England meant that the police were fairly new, this is why Holmes was able to do what he did. Today someone like Holmes’ would not exist, one because there is much more investigation techniques like fingerprints, and two because someone like Holmes’ would be seen as taking the law into their own hands and be arrested.
As well as taking the law into his own hands Holmes’ also broke the law by committing crimes such as murder and carrying a gun which was probably illegal in Victorian times. But if it was illegal in Victorian times, Holmes was able to get away with it as he was helping the police also because the law was not fully established. In ‘Silver Blaze’ Holmes brake’s the law by holding information from Colonel Ross about finding the horse. This is also an example of Holmes being above the law, as if this was illegal the police did not arrest Holmes.
However in ‘The Cardboard Box’ Holmes realises he can only brake the law to a limit.
“…I could not shoot him at sight or I should myself be in the dock.”
This is an example of Holmes not putting himself above the law, as he realises it is the polices job to shoot people and he would be treated the same as every else by the police.
As we read the five short stories we was able to see Holmes in different situations as A.C Doyle was able to develop Holmes’ character. Where if we read only one Sherlock Holmes novel we would not be able to see Holmes’ character in detail as there would only be one case. The five stories we read had five different cases with five different criminals. In some cases Holmes was called in by the police and in some, Holmes was on the case his self. From the fives stories we read we was al to argue the statement ‘Holmes too often puts himself above the law.’
Even though Holmes puts himself above the law, we still consider him as a ‘good’ character as well as braking the law, he’s still not thought of as a ‘bad’ character. This is because he is always helping the police solve crimes. I agree with the statement that Holmes too often puts himself above the law, However he does realise on the odd occasion that he can’t get away with operating outside the law.