The Humanity of Sherlock Holmes, Part 1

Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during...
Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during filming of Sherlock. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I, like many around the world, have fallen under Sherlock’s enchantment. Specifically Sherlock as portrayed in the BBC’s Sherlock, which has finished its second season.

Ahem, this post will not dwell on the high cheekbones of Benedict Cumberbatch, just FYI.  I’ll leave that to Irene Adler.

The mystery I want to unlock: What makes Sherlock so compelling? 

I’ve narrowed it down to a few possible causes.

But first, I’ve been told this enchantment of mine is ridiculous. Sherlock is an arrogant, self-absorbed, tactless, emotionless, and well, in his words, “I’m not a psychopath…I’m a high-functioning sociopath, do your research.” (Study in Pink).

So now I must prove myself, since apparently you’re not able to just admire people like this.

I see Sherlock’s humanity. Specifically, his convictions, his duality, and (interestingly) his addictive behavior all make him compelling.

Still don’t believe me?

Convictions are attractive. Sherlock is a man of his word. He assesses situations without making assumptions, all with incredible confidence and competence. I can’t help but believe him when he insists that evidence is pointing in another direction. What isn’t there to like about someone who does his job extremely well and sticks to his guns?

Sherlock (TV series)
Sherlock (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Duality reveals his complexity. Holmes is so smart, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with his deductions. His seems superhuman.

He explodes, “Oh, look at you lot! You’re all so vacant. Is it nice not being me? It must be so relaxing!” (Study in Pink) in his overblown pride, but then astonishes us later by apologizing to Molly, the lab technician with, “I am sorry. Forgive me” (A Scandal in Belgravia) after crushing her with his wit.

Sherlock shows compassion at the strangest moments, revealing that he cares deeply about the people he treats as insignificant.

Starting to see what I see?

(Continued in Part Two)

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. My dad and brother and I discovered Sherlock this weekend. We love it! I really appreciated your point about the compellingness of conviction. That has to be right. I’m looking forward to the continuation.

  2. Thanks, Allison! I love seeing how broad of an appeal he has, as such an interesting, unusual character–not someone you’d immediately call likeable, yet he is!

  3. I, too, fell under the spell of “Sherlock” and find his personality intriguing. I sense a kernel of vulnerability beneath his surface and sense that he’s afraid of that part of himself. There are chinks in his armour, though, and you can see it in some of his reactions to John, to Molly (who is a pathologist – a medical examiner – not a lab technician), and to Mrs. Hudson; when Sherlock tells John, “I don’t have friends; I just have one”, when he says “Mrs. Hudson leave Baker Street? England would fall!” and puts his arm around her, when he apologizes to Molly on Christmas Eve and admits to her in the lab in the Reichenbach Fall episode that she does count. And that scene with Mycroft in the morgue, after identifying the corpse as Irene Adler, when Sherlock looks at a grieving family and says, “Look at them. They all care so much. Do you ever wonder if there’s something wrong with us?” I think that is the beginning of his understanding that he is human, that he has very human emotions which he has kept strongly in check but is now questioning and wondering. This is a rambling post and I apologize for it; I’m just not sure how to word it. All I know is that when I watch the episodes of “Sherlock” it makes me happy and grateful to the people responsible for the program. I love it.

    1. Thank you, Kathy! I really like those moments that you’ve picked out, where Sherlock starts to touch his human side. “Do you ever wonder if there’s something wrong with us?” is a powerful, self-aware statement. His friendship with John is one of the most redeeming parts of his otherwise harsh personality, though I admit I was near tears when he apologized to Molly on Christmas Eve. He finally knew when he’d gone too far in heartless observations! Thanks for taking the time to share what makes him so magnetic and interesting to you. It continues to solve the mystery of his intrigue. 🙂

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