The Science Of Deduction In Doyle’s The Sign Of Four

1255 words - 5 pages

“Deduction” is the word Sherlock Holmes uses to describe the detection skills he possesses. Throughout Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, the reader witnesses his skills in crime solving via detecting, and shares the amazement John Watson feels every time these “deduction moments” occur. However, these moments are not as incredible as they seem, and that “deduction” have been practiced by people that engage in textual practice and close reading.
In order to understand the similarity between Sherlock Holmes’ deduction process and making a close reading, its steps must be examined. The word “deduction” is different than “detection”. “Detection” is the act of finding and discovering, whereas “deduction” is more about finding conclusions and looking for outcomes. This small difference helps reader understand Holmes’ insistence on using the word “deduction”, for which his own article presents and evidence by mentioning “The Sign of Deduction” –which is the name of the first chapter in The Sign of Four; in the first novel, A Study In Scarlet (Doyle 16). He doesn’t merely “detect”, he also calculates and reaches to a conclusion. Moreover, he uses the word “observing”, which is the first step in his deduction process. He observes, calculates and applies logic, then reaches to a conclusion, therefore deducting.
The first step of the deduction process, observing, has two sides as seen in Holmes’ and Watson’s cases. What is similar to the close reading is Holmes’s observing methods, which are more scientific and academically acceptable. As the narrator of the novel, what the reader reads is John Watson’s observations. However, his observing is more subjective than Holmes’ observing. Sherlock observes to gather information and infer new information by combining his already existing general knowledge in various fields. Moreover, he does not only observe with his eyes. There are times that he simply listens and fills in his clients’ stories with questions like “the date” and “the luggage” in Morstan case (132). Watson, on the other hand, simply looks, and feels. This particular difference is best seen in their first encounter with Mary Morstan, whom Watson has an exclusive opinion of. The first word Watson uses the describe Mary after she leaves is how “attractive” she is (135), while Sherlock Holmes doesn’t go further than stating her being a “model client” (134) to herself, which is not a very personal statement at all.
In close reading, or textual practice, the reader focuses on the elements that the text presents to him/her. S/he does not think how beautifully written or relatable the text is, which is what would happen had Watson’s observing style were adopted. S/he looks at the text, and tries to find allusions and symbols and anything and everything the text may have to offer in meaning. The text is examined like a crime scene, and the smallest of clues are taken into account. The small clues are important, since, as Holmes expresses,...

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