Genre Fiction as a Means of Cultural Critique
In the short stories text The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the novel Dracula by Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, the authors employ strategies that coincide in engaging their audiences. Stoker presents a Victorian horror, and it is essential for him to employ epistolary writing to introduce his audience to the creatures they supposedly are not conversant with. The use of first-person narration as opposed to third-person alleviates the tendency of his audience to take his work for leisure but instead have a mindset of learning more. This applies to Doyle’s short story that features Holmes as the main character. This highlights the significance of style in shaping the reception that the respective audiences have for both works.
The introduction of Irene Adler in the story “A Scandal in Bohemia” is one of the moments in which Doyle raises his audience’s concerns. It is in the opening paragraphs that Doyle resolves the concerns that the audience may have about Adler at the end of the story. Adler is referred to as the late implying that she is dead at the time when this story is narrated. Notably, it is only in this story that Adler appears but remains one of the most notable female characters who was able to evade Holmes in his quest to fulfill a mission to retrieve a picture of herself and the King of Bohemia. Adler is presented as a shrewd individual that retains the picture that she had used to blackmail the king event after Holmes figures out where she hides it. By the use of dramatic irony, Doyle allows his audience that even Holmes, the man that the King entrusts with this recovery, ranks Adler higher than the King. The King asks Holmes, “Would she not have made an admirable queen?” and feels that it is “a pity she was not on his level?” Holmes responds by stating that, indeed, Adler was on a different level from the King, insinuating that she was superior.
In the epistolary narrative Dracula, Stoker draws his audience into the personal lives of the characters allowing them to have an intimate experience of the events that each character is involved in. Specifically, this is achieved through the fears that each character exhibits about the unknown. For example, the fear of being trapped by somebody is reflected in Jonathan, which traumatizes him in most parts of the story. Stoker allows the audience to learn about the predicaments of Jonathan in chapter three when he finds himself trapped in Dracula’s castle and realizing that he is alone with him. Also, the audience is informed about the warning that Count had given Jonathan, but the latter states that “The Count’s warning came into my mind, but I took a pleasure in disobeying it.” The audience gets apprehensive upon learning Jonathan’s situation, having been prepared by his narration from the point at which his journey to Transylvania is introduced. For example, the audience is made aware that Jonathan has an unsettling feeling when he sees all the other passengers so excited. Also, the description of the night as one that creeps in enables the audience to realize that Jonathan is not entirely comfortable. Through Mina, Stoker resolves the concerns of his audience by resenting her as one that can obtain Dracula’s secrets and potentially defeat him.
In “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet,” Doyle creates a phenomenon that is common in modern society where individuals have perfected the art of begging through the character Neville St. Clair. In this story, the main situation in which the audience’s concern is raised by the author is the double life that Neville lives as a beggar and as a reporter. The audience is made to learn that Neville is a good actor, and he does not necessarily earn a good living by acting to entertain others but to benefit himself. Besides the theatrics of St. Clair, Doyle diverts the attention of his audience to Watson’s desire for a world that is predictable, an element that sets the difference between him and Holmes. St. Clair’s information about them does not make sense to Watson. Also, Watson is keen to learn what Holmes is up to when they coincidentally come across in the line of duty.
With the styles adopted by the authors to raise and resolve the concerns of their audiences, the understanding of the stories highlighted is enhanced. The authors assign their characters the role of delivering information that is pertinent to the audience’s knowledge, and this intensifies tension when events are unfolding. The revealing of the true identity of St. Clair, who disguises himself as a beggar, is one such event. Of the two authors, Stoker comes out on top in employing such situations, but this can be attributed to the fact that his journal entries are collected in a single-story compared to the multiple stories that make different journal entries by Doyle. The audience in the latter collection is required to put together bits of information that in some cases fail to add up. For a reader that is outside the world of either of these stories, the strategies adopted by the authors enhance comprehension.
Doyle, A. C. (1992). The adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Wordsworth Editions.
Stoker, B. (2018). Dracula (pp. 215-222). ARC, Amsterdam University Press.