A new look at Sherlock Holmes for your next literature research paper

Without a doubt, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most beloved fictional characters in not only British literature but all of literature. The list of actors who have portrayed the consulting detective includes everyone from Charleton Heston to Benedict Cumberbatch. Now we have a truly unique interpretation of the character in the film Mr. Holmes starring Ian McKellen.

Ian McKellen portrays an elderly Sherlock Holmes in the film Mr. Holmes. (Credit: Roadside Attractions)

Ian McKellen portrays an elderly Sherlock Holmes in the film Mr. Holmes. (Credit: Roadside Attractions)

In this film we find the great detective much older and frailer than he has ever been depicted on film. The story was adapted from Mitch Cullen’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind. If you’re writing a research paper on literary characters or famous detectives, be sure to go and see Mr. Holmes.

Mr. Holmes

In a February 7, 2015, article for Variety.com, “Berlin Film Review: ‘Mr. Holmes,’” Scott Foundas warned readers that they won’t experience the same fast-paced adventures of McKellen’s roles in Lord of the Rings or X-Men. But fans of other Sherlock films, such as The Seven Percent Solution, will appreciate the steady unfolding of a “dying man struggling to delineate fact from fantasy as he writes the final chapter of his life.”

The year is 1947 and Holmes, 93, is living quietly, all but forgotten in a Sussex farmhouse with his housekeeper and her 14-year-old son. Along with pursuing the study of herbal remedies to help his failing memory, Holmes occupies himself in reviewing his final case as a detective.

“Above all, it was a case in which Holmes got something wrong — wrong enough to hang up his magnifying glass for good. If only he could remember what the hell it was,” Foundas explained.

Sherlock Holmes: His last bow

Mitch Cullen’s novel is not the first time that Sherlock readers have been presented with an elderly Holmes. “His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle and edited with an introduction by Owen Dudley Edwards also depicts an older Holmes. The book is a collection of stories taken from several sources including: the John Murray collection His Last Bow, first published on October 22, 1917, individual items published in the Strand magazine as well as certain American and UK publications of Doyle’s works.

In the book’s preface, Dr. Watson gave readers an update on their favorite detective. “He has, for many years, lived in a small farm upon the Downs five miles from Eastbourne, where his time is divided between philosophy and agriculture. During this period of rest he has refused the most princely offers to take up various cases, having determined that his retirement was a permanent one,” Watson said.

Holmes inspired term paper

Chris Redmond offered readers advice on how to write a Sherlockian inspired term paper in his article, “Essays and papers about Sherlock Holmes.”

Redmond offered a list of possible topics which included:

  • Was Arthur Conan Doyle the inventor of the detective story?
  • Is Sherlock Holmes an upholder of justice or of individual whim?
  • Does Sherlock Holmes meet the modern definition of “hero,” or even “superhero”?

Redmond advised that you read several Holmes stories as well as the works of other Doyle contemporaries such as Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson.

“In your reading you will probably be looking for general ideas about how some other character is similar to Sherlock Holmes or different from him, or how themes and techniques are the same or different in ACD’s (Arthur Conan Doyle) writings and in some other body of writing. You will need to make general statements about these similarities and differences and support your generalizations with specific details and facts in your essay,” Redmond suggested.

For more help on completing your term papers and essays check out the research tutorials and tools at Questia.

Be sure to check out Questia’s library of literature which includes literature from other countries and the works of famous authors, including Sherlock Holmes.

Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes? What’s your favorite Holmes adventure? Tell us in the comments.

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