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Genre In Doyle’s The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes And Wells’ War Of The Worlds

2009 words - 9 pages

Genre fiction during 1890 – 1918 challenges ideas of gender to some extent. During this period, known as the ‘age of transition’ or fin de siècle, Victorian writers were ‘in active rebellion against virtually everything the previous generation represented’ (Keating, pg4). Such rebellion can be seen in terms of gender. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells challenged ideas of gender. This paper will argue that these writers challenged ideas of genders through their genre fiction by examining Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Wells’ War of the Worlds. Firstly, the role of observation will be discussed in reference to gender. In both Doyle and Wells’ novel, observations play a large ...view middle of the document...

Holmes is ‘the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen’ (Doyle, pg5), whilst the narrating frame within War of the Worlds makes use of science to observe and rationalise what is going on. Observation is made to appear as a masculine trait in both texts. The use of both observations being scientific makes everything it falls upon feminised (Attebery, pg52). Yet, the observations often prove misleading. Holmes’ observes Irene Adler as ‘the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet’ (Doyle, pg18). The use of the word ‘daintiest’ conveys Adler as incredibly feminine, which then misleads Holmes who believes women are feeble and weak. Holmes observation makes Adler appear feminine on the outside – he makes no comment on her mind or personality, only her physical appearance and what activities she performs. This conveys that Holmes’ observation relies mainly on the physical signifiers. This is manipulated by Alder in her disguise (Doyle, pg26). Holmes is unable to detect her through his observation because observation relies upon signifiers. But still he feels he has solved the case and is placed into a false sense of accomplishment. This mistaken observation is also seen in War of the Worlds. The narrator makes use of his scientific observations in order to rationalise and to feel safe. Yet the narrator’s over reliance on his observations place him into a false sense of security (Wells, pg33). The wife of the narrator, who has no scientific background to observe with, knows the Martians will come for them (Wells, pg33). The narrator’s scientific observations place the aliens as feminised – thus since the Martians are feminised, the narrator feels comfort since the feminised is placed into a lower status than the masculine. Yet through the killing of Ogilvy who played a part of a scientific observer, Wells conveys how this observation leads to destruction. Because the Martian was not perceived as a threat at first due to scientific observation framing it as feminine, the mistaken observers were easily eliminated by the heat ray of the Martian (Wells, pg29). Therefore, both writers challenge the masculine trait of scientific observation by conveying how simply observations can lead to a false sense of security. Doyle highlights the use of the superficial observation through Holmes – the signifiers that reveal Adler to him lead him astray as he does not perceive her personality nor her ‘mind of the most resolute of men’ (Doyle, pg14). The narrator, and other observers, in War of the Worlds feminise the Martian, lulling them into a false sense of security which makes it easy for the Martian to eliminate them. Furthermore, the use of the other rationalisation furthers this false sense of security. Therefore both writers convey the masculine trait of observation as dangerous and misleading.

Doyle challenges ideas of gender through conveying the old patriarchy as dying, being replaced by a new man who is represented by...

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