Olivia Rutigliano reads the detective duo as a brilliant double-act, designed by Watson himself.
Published October 29, 2021 By Olivia Rutigliano
Olivia Rutigliano is the Associate Editor of LitHub’s CrimeReads vertical and the Senior Film Writer at LitHub. In addition to Lit Hub, CrimeReads, and Book Marks, her work appears in Vanity Fair, Vulture, Lapham’s Quarterly, Public Books, The Baffler, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Politics/Letters, The Toast, Truly Adventurous, PBS Television, and elsewhere. She is a PhD candidate and the Marion E. Ponsford fellow in the departments of English/comparative literature and theatre at Columbia University, where she specializes in nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature and entertainment.
It’s not easy playing second-fiddle. Think about this for a moment: is there a character in all of Western literature more misunderstood, more defamed than Doctor Watson, the erstwhile sidekick of detective Sherlock Holmes?
So often, in twentieth-century film and television adaptions, Dr. John Watson is represented as a blithering idiot—often old, always naive, and perpetually astonished. He exists in a constant state of amazement; at the very most, providing a contrast that makes Holmes seem even smarter.
This is strange, because, as he is written in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Watson could not be more different than this scurrilous remaking. Holmes and Watson meet in 1881, in a laboratory where Holmes is conducting research. Watson, a surgeon, has just returned to London from a stint in Afghanistan as an army doctor. He’s looking for lodgings, and an old friend directs him to Holmes, who is in the same situation. When they meet, Watson finds Holmes fascinating. Holmes finds Watson suitable.
As both a doctor and a war veteran, Watson is in the unique position to appreciate Holmes’s scientific detective work, as well as offer meaningful assistance as needed. In fact, he appreciates it so well that he begins to profile Holmes, which attracts more attention towards Holmes’s business. And he’s young; according to an estimation by Sherlockian scholar William S. Baring-Gould (which has been corroborated by other scholars, including Leslie S. Klinger), Watson is probably only about twenty-nine years old.
Editor’s Note: Read more, see link below for original item…