Arthur Conan Doyle uses a set of similar approaches to writing his short stories of “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Purloined Letter.” In both stories, he uses symbolism to draw out his themes. The two stories are similar in that there are an incriminating item, unsuccessful attempts to recover the item, and the use of disguise or diversion by characters to retrieve the item. These three similarities bring out the major themes of the stories. This paper focuses on ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ and will show how symbolism has been used to bring out three major themes; logic versus emotion, disguise and deception, love, friendship, and admiration.
Doyle uses three characters to show the theme of disguise and deception through symbolism. Firstly, when the King of Bohemia visits Holmes, he is masked, hoping that no one recognizes him as he seeks illegal help from Holmes. However, after looking at him closely, Holmes identifies him, and the King admits. The use of a mask depicts disguise as a theme. Similarly, Holmes disguises himself when he visits Adler for a mission of recovering the photograph. Disguise does not end with the two characters; Adler also disguises herself as a young girl in the streets, who greet Holmes and wishes a good night, without identifying who she is to Holmes. Doyle describes it that Holmes is greeted by “a slim youth in an ulster who had hurried by.” The act of disguising themselves is a depiction that they were using deception to get what they want.
The theme of logic and emotion is also symbolized through an action that Holmes does. According to Watson, Holmes is an intelligent man who uses logic to get what he wants. “All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind,” Watson states. This is evident when Holmes uses a trick by organizing a group of men who fight over helping Adler. The trick later leads to Holmes and Watson claiming a fire outbreak to trigger Adler in identifying where she has hidden the photograph. Holmes uses his logic and understands that because Adler values the picture too much when she hears of a fire outbreak, the first thing she might think of is retrieving the photograph. However, Adler also uses logic and discovers the trick is meant to recover the picture, so she replaces it with her photo and goes with it to London. This act leads to Holmes being emotionally attached to Adler, and he sees her as an intelligent woman. The logical actions lead to emotional attachment, which brings out the theme of logic and emotion.
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Lastly, the story depicts the theme of love, friendship, and admiration through several intertwined romantic and friendship pairings. Firstly, Adler keeping the photograph shows she loved King to plan to compromise his wedding if she did not marry her. Secondly, King also was engaged to a Scandinavia princess and was even planning to get married. Thirdly, at the beginning of the story, Doyle states that Watson had just married before returning to the private medical practice. Also, when King asks Holmes what pay he wants to help him get relieved of the photograph, Holmes answers Adler’s picture. He even addresses Adler as “the woman,” something that depicts he admired her. Doyle writes, “To Sherlock Holmes, she is always THE woman.” Friendship is evident through Watson and Holmes’s relationship.
To sum up, many actions in the story symbolizes the major themes of the story. Disguise and deception are depicted when Holmes, Adler, and the King disguise themselves to get what they want. Homes and King wants the photograph while Adler wants to conserve it. The theme of logic and emotion is evident when Holmes uses a trick to recover Adler’s photograph but later gets emotionally attached to Adler. Three relationships symbolize love; the King and Scandinavia princess, Watson’s marriage, and King’s intimate relationship with Adler. Friendship is illustrated by Watson and Holmes, while Holmes admires Adler’s intelligence to the extent of referring to her as “the woman.’