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Sherlock Holmes And Christopher Boone English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 3185 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In Mark Haddons short-story, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Christopher Boone, the protagonist has suggested several times that he, doing some detective work himself, is very much like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character, Sherlock Holmes.

Based on the protagonist’s strange behaviour and thoughts, many people think that he has some kind of mental illness. And, as he is so much like Sherlock Holmes, who is a rather peculiar figure himself, we can enlist the main similarities and differences between the two fictional characters. As of Holmes’ character, I chose to pick the BBC adaptation of 2010 and 2012, because it is much closer in time and setting than that of the original stories.

But, before starting the list, let’s see what the main syndromes of Asperger are, the assumed mental illness of Christopher.

The severity of Asperger can vary from mild to severe. They usually do not tolerate well any changes and often have obsessive routines. They generally have a special interest, in which they are really good. At young age, these symptoms can lead to rigidity, but later in adulthood it actually might result in a sumptuous carrier. Especially if we considerate their ability to learn social skills as others can learn how to ride a bike. But, at least at the beginning, they cannot always read body language and other non-verbal language and cannot measure proper body space and they often avoid gaze. They appear to be especially sensitive to particular sounds, touch, light, to which other people are not. This causes a very strange and odd behaviour sometimes. As a result, their mates will often see them an outsider and mock them for this. It will not help to ease this situation the fact that people who suffer from Asperger’s syndrome have an innate naivety and a normal IQ, but have extraordinary skill in a particular area. In terms of their use of language, they seem to develop like everyone else. However, they often have a larger amount of vocabulary than others of their age, and also they are really straightforward in their choice of words. In other cases, they might encounter some hardships in language usage in social environment. [1] 

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Now that we have seen the main symptoms of Asperger, we can go on to the examples from Haddon’s work and how much they actually apply for its protagonist, Christopher. Parallelled to this, we will see the similarities and occasional differences between him and Sherlock Holmes. Some scientists even presume that Holmes has many symptoms of Asperger, thus was the first character (although fictional), who suffered from this kind of mental illness, even thought it was described first in 1944 and acknowledged only in 1994. [2] Others think that Doyle, due to his medical studies, may have known some of these symptoms. [3] 

First of all, as we have seen, the main characteristic of this illness is being antisocial. In the short-story, Christopher does not seem to know many people, nor does he desire to. His most important contact is with his father, with whom he lives and who understand him and is able to deal with his son’s illness, on the contrary to his own mother. His mother wrote Christopher this, how she could not cope with the strange behavior of his son, but how patient was his father usually with him. After his father he mentions especially a lot Siobhan, the school-psychiatrist, who helps him and tries to teach him about social contacts. Moreover, she is one of the few who can draw Christopher out from his usual uncommunicative state. Similarly to the role of Siobhan in the boy’s life, Dr. Watson constantly tries to keep Holmes from hurting other’s feelings, and in general tries to get him to behave in a socially acceptable manner. In some way, he is the normal counterpart of Holmes’ abnormal life. [4] 

Lestrade: […] We’ve found Rachel.

Sherlock Holmes: Who is she?

Lestrade: Jennifer Wilson’s only daughter. […]

Sherlock Holmes: You need to bring Rachel in. You need to question her. I need to question her.

Lestrade: She’s dead.

Sherlock Holmes: Excellent!

Sherlock Holmes: How, when and why? Is there a connection? There has to be.

Lestrade: Well, I doubt it, since she’s been dead for fourteen years. Technically she was never alive. Rachel was Jennifer Wilson’s stillborn daughter, fourteen years ago.

Sherlock Holmes: No, that’s … that’s not right. How … Why would she do that? Why? […]

John Watson: You said that the victims all took the poison themselves, that he makes them take it. Well, maybe he … I don’t know, talks to them? Maybe he used the death of her daughter somehow.

Sherlock Holmes: Yeah, but that was ages ago. Why would she still be upset?

(John stares at him. Sherlock hesitates as he realises that everyone in the flat has stopped what they’re doing and has fallen silent. He glances around the room and then looks awkwardly at John.)

Sherlock Holmes: Not good?

John Watson: Bit not good, yeah.

When Christopher talks to other people, for example Mrs. Alexander, he states that it is difficult for him to converse with them, because he does not know them, thus does not trust them; and also because chatting with someone is not easy for them. But, interestingly, the boy occasionally can overcome his difficulties and for some time can maintain a normal conversation with the old lady. Parallelly, Sherlock does not seem to have many friends, but still is more social than Christopher, he does not have a problem with talking to anyone.

Even though both of them seem to encounter difficulties at the area of social contacts, the also both try to improve their skills. In the short-story we often read that Christopher says or does something just because he is told that is the proper thing to say or do. For example, when Ed Boone, his father prepares him some meal, we read:

“And I said, ‘Thank you for supper,’ because that is being polite.” [5] 

In BBC Sherlock, in the episode “Scandal in Belgravia” at the Christmas party, Holmes jabbers a long and quite rude monologue about Molly’s especially coquettish looks, with which she wishes to seduce a secret boyfriend. When it turns out it is actually Sherlock with whom Molly is in love with, thus humiliating Molly in front of the whole room, Holmes finally apologies. For a brief moment we can see Watson’s face, which is clearly surprised by Sherlock’s apology. From this scene we can see how he tries to redeem the insulting things he said out loud.

In connection with this antisocial behavior, people who have this illness, tend to have some problem with emotions and their recognition. At the very beginning of his book, Christopher “shows us” some drawings of smileys. He says he can understand happiness and sadness, but not the other facial expressions which indicate more complex emotions. [6] It seems he is somehow insensitive to most kind of emotions. It especially shows in his choice of words and straightforwardness:

And Mrs. Alexander said, “Your mother, before she died, was very good friends with Mr. Shears.”

And I said, “I know.”

And she said, “No, Christopher. I’ m not sure that you do. I mean that they were very good friends. Very, very good friends.”

I thought about this for a while and said, “Do you mean that they were doing sex?”

And Mrs. Alexander said, “Yes, Christopher. That is what I mean.”

It seems that even death does not really bother him.

This characteristic is found in Sherlock Holmes, too. In fact, this is his one of his most famous features: being the man of logic and not that of emotions. For example in the morgue, in the same episode of BBC Sherlock, the Holmes brothers see a family on Christmas Eve who probably lost a relative and they are, of course, devastated. But they just watch them, saying:

Sherlock Holmes: „Look at them. They all care so much. Do you ever wonder if there’s something wrong with us?” 

Mycroft Holmes: „All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock.” [7] 

Moreover, in “The Hounds of Baskerville” where Holmes deliberately poisons his only friend, and when Watson questions him about it, he does not seem to be very bothered about the matter.

John Watson: So you got it wrong.

Sherlock Holmes: No.

John Watson: You were wrong. It wasn’t in the sugar. You got it wrong.

Sherlock Holmes: A bit. It won’t happen again. [8] 

It is very important to note that on the contrary of Christopher, Sherlock can actually pretend any kind of emotion just to get some information, he easily manipulates anyone without a bit of regret.

Sherlock Holmes: Mrs Monkford?

(She turns to him tearfully.)

Mrs. Monkford: Yes.

Mrs. Monkford: Sorry, but I’ve already spoken with two policemen.

John Watson: No, we’re not from the police; we’re …

(Sherlock holds his hand out to her, his voice tearful and tremulous.)

Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes. Very old friend of your husband’s. We, um…

(As she shakes his hand, he looks down as if fighting back his tears.)

Sherlock Holmes: … we grew up together.

Mrs. Monkford: I’m sorry, who? I don’t think he ever mentioned you.

Sherlock Holmes (still tearful): Oh, he must have done. This is … this is horrible, isn’t it?

Sherlock Holmes: I mean, I just can’t believe it. I only saw him the other day. Same old Ian – not a care in the world.

(He smiles tearfully at her.)

Mrs. Monkford: Sorry, but my husband has been depressed for months. Who are you?

Sherlock Holmes: Really strange that he hired a car. Why would he do that? It’s a bit suspicious, isn’t it?

(By now he has tears running down his cheeks.)

Mrs. Monkford: No, it isn’t. He forgot to renew the tax on the car, that’s all.

Sherlock Holmes: Oh, well, that was Ian! That was Ian all over!

Mrs. Monkford: No it wasn’t.

(Instantly Sherlock’s fake persona drops and he looks at her intensely.)

Sherlock Holmes: Wasn’t it? Interesting.

In general, Holmes is quite rude to everyone, including Watson, and also, he sees himself as the only normal human being in the world. Here are two very good example of this from the first episode of the series, „A Study in Pink”:

Sherlock Holmes: Took me less than an hour to find the right skip.

John Watson: Pink. You got all that because you realised the case would be pink?

Sherlock Holmes: Well, it had to be pink, obviously.

John Watson (to himself): Why didn’t I think of that?

Sherlock Holmes: Because you’re an idiot.

(John looks across to him, startled)

Sherlock Holmes: No, no, no, don’t look like that. Practically everyone is.

And elsewhere:

Sherlock Holmes: Anderson, don’t talk out loud. You lower the I.Q. of the whole street. [9] (A Study in Pink)

This feature shares also Christopher, when he talks about his schoolmates and he states that he is the only normal among them.

Both of them are aware of their special skills, therefore both of them are quite proud, almost arrogant. Christopher, without any trace of modesty, is a hundred per-cent sure he will get his A-level in maths. Holmes, too, is always sure he will solve the case, and when he makes an error, he is quite reluctant to admit it (see the “The Hounds of Baskerville” conversation above).

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They both has their special area of interest, although Christopher’s is much narrower (only maths) than Holmes’, which includes everything from biology and chemistry to observation and deduction. They both tend to shut down when they occupy themselves with their work, they do not eat or speak for long hours, in some extreme cases, even for days. However, unlike Sherlock, Christopher has a range of special rules which tend to interfere with his everyday life, for example the quality of the day is based on how many red or yellow cars he sees on the way to school; or he “cannot” eat his meal if they touched each other on his plate.

They do not only tend to shock people with their lack of emotion, but also with their actual behaviour, thus both of them being outsiders in some way. For example, at the beginning of the story, Christopher hugs the dead, bloody dog. That is surely something most normal people would not do. Similarly, at the beginning of “The Hounds of Baskerville”, Sherlock suddenly appears at the door, covered in blood, nearly giving poor Watson a heart attack. He explains he could not come home earlier because not a taxi would take him, so he had to travel on the metro. Also, at the beginning of “The Blind Banker”, Holmes meets his old acquaintance from the university. This man briefly mentions what an outsider was Sherlock even at that time, due to his extraordinary skills.

Sebastian: We were at uni together. This guy here had a trick he used to do.

Sherlock Holmes: It’s not a trick.

Sebastian: He could look at you and tell you your whole life story.

John Watson: Yes, I’ve seen him do it.

Sebastian: Put the wind up everybody. We hated him.

The description mentioned as one of them symptoms the sensitivity of touch, light or smell which others are not even aware of. Christopher does not like to be touched by anyone, even his own parents. Sherlock does not have any of this problem, but he does share the special ability to observe and remember people and characteristics which other people do not even see. When Christopher meets someone, he tends to mention the colour of his shoes, which is completely irrelevant, but still important to him. In the series, this ability of Holmes is illustrated by fancy texts which appear on the screen when he is observing someone, or he has many, rather inapprehensible monologues where he explains his deductions to the others.

It is really interesting how similar is the way they both save their memories. Christopher describes it as a DVD, which he can rewatch again and again with the same accuracy, and Holmes has a “mind palace” where he can wander around and find the appropriate information.

As a curiosity, both the short-story and the series mention the deerstalker, one of the most famous symbols of Sherlock Holmes, but in these works this hat does not seem to get as much attention as all the other adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Christopher writes:

In the original Sherlock Holmes stories Sherlock Holmes is never described as wearing a deerstalker hat, which is what he is always wearing in pictures and cartoons. The deerstalker hat was invented by a ma n called Sidney Paget, who did the illustrations for the original books.

And in the series, at the beginning of” The Reichenbach Fall”:

Sherlock Holmes: Why is it always the hat photograph? […]

Sherlock Holmes: What sort of hat is it anyway? […]

Sherlock Holmes: Is it a cap? Why has it got two fronts?

John Watson: It’s a deerstalker. […]

Sherlock Holmes: You stalk a deer with a hat? What are you gonna do – throw it? […]

Sherlock Holmes: Some sort of death frisbee? […]

Sherlock Holmes: It’s got flaps … ear flaps. It’s an ear hat, John. […]

John Watson: […] this isn’t a deerstalker now; it’s a Sherlock Holmes hat. 

As we can see, there are many similarities and differences between these two characters. But in general we can say that the detective is much more functional and effective than Christopher, only a little peculiar.



Albrecht, Karl Ph. D.: Did Sherlock Holmes Have Asperger Syndrome? Published in October 13, 2011. From: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brainsnacks/201110/did-sherlock-holmes-have-asperger-syndrome-0


Haddon, Mark: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Doubleplay, London, 2003. I used the page numbers from the copy found on this site: https://sites.google.com/site/janoskenyeres/readingliterarytexts 2012-11-02 17:50


Kirby, Barbara L.: What is Aperger Syndrome? 2001. From: http://scholar.google.hu/scholar?q=what+is+asperger+syndrome&btnG=&hl=hu&as_sdt=0 2012-11-16 09:58


Sanders, Lisa M.D.: Hidden Clues. Published: December 6, 2009, New York. From: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/magazine/06diagnosis-t.html?pagewanted=all 2012-11-16 11:34

Sherlock. Created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. BBC, 2010 and 2012.


Verhees, Ingrid: From Hero and Zero to Butch and Sundance: On the Evolution of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson Throughout a Century of Adaptation. MA thesis, 2011, Universiteit Utrecht. From:http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/student-theses/2011-0919-201519/From%20Hero%20and%20Zero%20to%20Butch%20and%20Sundance%20-%20On%20the%20Evolution%20of%20Sherlock%20Holmes%20and%20Dr.%20Watson%20Throughout%20a%20Century%20of%20Adaptation.pdf 2012-11-16 14:22

Transcription of the series:

Sherlock transcription:

http://arianedevere.livejournal.com/tag/transcript 2012-11-16 19:11


http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0036861/quotes 2012-11-16 17:59


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