Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Scandal in Bohemia – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: A Discussion on Irene Adler

Hello Bookworms,
      I have a new review of one of the original Sherlock Holmes stories! and I am starting an interesting discussion on the character of Irene Adler!


     To Sherlock Holmes she is the woman. A mysterious man has asked Sherlock to retrieve a scandalous photograph from the illusive Irene Adler.  Sherlock makes short work of locating the woman. However, what Irene does next is something not even Sherlock expected…


 CAUTION! This summary contains SPOILERS!

                I honestly loved “A Scandal in Bohemia”! Before now, I really didn’t like the character of Irene Adler. After reading “A Scandal in Bohemia” I realize that my aversion to the character of Irene is simply because I have never before seen the original version of Irene.

                I had always been bugged by the idea that Sherlock Holmes was “in love” with Irene, but in the original, they weren’t in love at all. In fact, Irene Adler married another man! What’s amazing about Irene is not Sherlock’s “attracted” to her but that she’s the only woman who outsmarted him! Sherlock didn’t call her “The Woman” because she was “The only woman for him”, it was a name he called her out of respect. In fact, in the opening lines of “A Scandal in Bohemia” Watson states:

    “In his [Sherlock’s] eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind”

                We can see from this statement that Sherlock’s calling Irene “THE Woman” is merely a way for Holmes to show respect and possibly even something akin to admiration for her brilliant mind which rivaled that of his own. Holmes always had great respect for someone who could break the barriers of cleverness and enter downright brilliance (whether they were friend or foe).

                So why then do many versions of Sherlock Holmes portray Irene Adler as Sherlock’s one true love? I believe the answer lies in the history of the Sherlock Holmes stories and their original theater adaptation. In 1898, William Gillette, an American playwright, was turning the Sherlock Holmes stories into a stage play (in which Gillette himself would star as Holmes). Gillette contacted Arthur Conan Doyle and asked if he could have Sherlock Holmes get married in the play. Doyle famously replied “You may marry or murder or do what you like with him!” Gillette did decide to have Holmes get married in the play and fashioned a wife (named Alice Faulkner) for Sherlock that he modeled after Irene Adler in A Scandal in Bohemia.

                After having seen Irene Adler in both lights, first as Sherlock’s “One true love” and now as her original self, I must admit that I much prefer the original Irene Adler to any of her “alter egos” such as Alice Faulkner (Sherlock Holmes, the play), The Woman (Sherlock, BBC), Adler/Moriarty (Elementary, CBS), etc.


 Which version of Irene do YOU prefer? Please leave comments below! J
Illustration by Sidney Paget


The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

An Entirely New Country – Alistair Duncan

Sherlock Holmes (play) - Wikipedia