Detecting Orientalism in Sherlock Holmes


Our data revealed an interesting pattern of oriental assignment by the West in this novel. This is perhaps most interesting in the way positive attributes were detected around discussion of Eastern objects or persons. Our graphs illustrate this phenomena in their unique representations of our data.

Our Sherlock and Watson chart reveals both these characters assigned positive attitudes towards Eastern objects of exotic and undetermined types. This is interesting to consider, as our hypothesis projected the East would not be spoken of positively. Upon looking at these data points in the text, things become even more interesting. The positive exotic and undetermined items discussed are owned or possessed by a Western character, and are spoken of favorably as a result. This reveals an aspect of Orientalism and the nefarious nature of one culture defining what is "good" or "bad" about another; because these Eastern objects are possessed by a Westerner, they are exotic and favorable. Other objects, like those considered primitive, or people considered violent, are cast in a negative or ambiguous light. This data reveals the nuances of Victorian Orientalism and the British conceptualization of the East.

Our East and West chart also reveals surprising attitude assignments, this time in the form of the way the west is framed. We accounted for both occidental and oriental objects and people in this text, and our data shows several instances in chapter 6 and 12 where Westerns are cast in a negative light.

The example in chapter 6 of negative assignments of the Occident appear in the case of Thaddeus Sholto suspect status following the murder of his brother. His home that is full of "Indian curiosities" and the strange and foreign "poisonous" dart that killed his brother reflects negatively on him. The objects work together to point to his guilt rather than serve as exotic novelties.

The examples in chapter 12 occurs in the case of Jonathan Small, the white, English ex-con affiliated with the East and oriented against the Empire, as he is the character who steals the treasure from the Sholoto's, who stole the treasure from India following the Sepoy Rebellion. Because of his actions against the Empire, his relationship to the East, and his affiliation with Tonga, the Andaman Islander with whom he carried out his revenge, Small's actions are crimes against the British Empire, whereas the original theft of the Agra treasure from its Indian origins is not even considered as a wrongdoing.