Chapter 2- Alternatives
I think I've pretty much exhausted what little I know of psychology in the last chapter, but there were some points that I wanted to revisit, such as the bipolar theory and Holmes's appeal.
As described in the previous chapter, Holmes's mood swings might have been a manifestation of bipolar disorder. He would go into a euphoric state, even when not on a case, where he would be very active and it would seem that his mind was racing all the time. In contrast, he would sometimes reject a case if he did not fancy it, and he would succumb to a very lethargic, depressive condition. The fundamental problem with this theory, as HowAreYouToday brought up, is the fact that he could seemingly bring himself out of depression when he received an interesting case. I haven't come across anything that indicates that this is possible.
And it does seem that our society is disorder happy, as The Sometimes Scribbler pointed out. There are two-year-olds being diagnosed with ADHD, but since when have toddlers been able to focus on anything for more than half a second? Also, it would seem that Doyle probably didn't mean to describe Holmes as bipolar, as the disorder was first classified by Emil Kraepelin around the year 1893, which would have been after the publication of "A Study in Scarlet".
For an alternative to the bipolar theory, then, Michael Hardwicke, the eminent Holmesian, has an interesting, and rather obvious, idea. Essentially, he says that Holmes's black moods and sudden bursts of energy might have correlated with when he would take his cocaine. It's a simple explanation. When Holmes hasn't had cocaine, he goes into a bit of withdrawal, and when he does take it, he is more animated.
However, drawing out on this theory, one can see what would have happened during a case or when Holmes quit the drug. The cocaine was used as an intellectual stimulant, to help him when he was bored and had nothing to do. But, he would also become excited while working, as his brain would be sufficiently occupied. Thus, his strange behaviors would seem to have nothing to do with cocaine, but more with just pure boredom. If he had a case he would be active, but with nothing to do, and as unsocial as he was, it's no wonder that he would become irritable and depressed- this is simply the way he reacted. Both theories work, I think, and both can be argued, as they have their good points and their flaws.
The previous chapter also describes how we like Holmes because he displays the four central traits when the reader first meets him. Even if one is first exposed to Sherlock Holmes when he isn't in stellar form, such as reading "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" as EloquentlySpeechless did, he still is a good character and the reader likes him. Quite a few people pointed out that we also like Holmes because he is enigmatic and so hard to figure out, and that his faults add to his appeal. After all, the real mystery of the series is the mystery of Holmes himself.
But there is one more reason why we like Holmes so much: his supposed physical attractiveness. Come on fangirls, and fanguys, don't deny it; we've all envisioned Holmes as being somewhat good-looking. I have yet to read a piece of fanfiction, professionally published or not, that describes him as being homely.
The question now is, why? There is absolutely no evidence in the canon that would make one think that Holmes is striking. Women do not fall over one another to get at him, and the women with whom he has had some positive interaction with have all turned against him: the "most winning woman" was actually a cold blooded killer, Irene Adler opted for the handsome young lawyer, and Violet Hunter, whom Holmes supposedly looked favorably upon, dedicated the rest of her life to teaching, and not to pursuing him.
However, there is some ambiguity concerning Holmes's appearance. He is never described as ugly, but it's not as though the portrayal will leave the reader thinking that Holmes is an Adonis. And, though Doyle favored Sidney Paget's depictions of Holmes to those of Frederick Dorr Steele's, it was largely because Steele tended to veer off from the canon when he drew. Paget's drawings are more well-known, though the latter's rendition of Holmes certainly did make him seem somewhat attractive.
The description of him in the canon can be read in such a way so that he seems handsome, and, as Paget was basing his drawings on his brother, it's not as though he was really considering what Holmes might have looked like. Also, John Garrideb in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" comments that Holmes is not unlike the illustrations of him, but it is not certain to what pictures he is referring to. To Steele's, as Garrideb is an American, or to Paget's, as he had been in England for quite some time?
Thus, because Holmes's appearance is not fixed in the canon, we are able to imagine what he looks like. And, thanks to the halo effect, we think of him as handsome. The halo effect states that when a few good qualities are noted, other good characteristics are inferred, so that beautiful people are thought to be intelligent and kind, and those who are charitable are thought to be attractive. The ambiguity in the stories allows us to do this- if Doyle had outright said that Holmes wasn't attractive, the halo effect would not take place. It is this uncertainty that adds to his mystery as well, and makes him even more appealing.
A/N- Well, that's that. I'm thinking of maybe writing up on Holmes's intelligence and past, and if anyone has any other ideas, let me know. Also, if anyone is interested in a good psychology textbook, check out David G. Meyer's "Psychology: 6th Edition". It is the most fascinating textbook I've come across and it reads almost like a novel. You get the sense that Professor Meyer is really talking to you about a whole range of broad psychology topics. And, as an aside, I came across this Sherlockian Top Ten Lists website. Most of them are rather funny; my favorite was the one about Holmes going on "dates" with the women in the canon. As this website won't let me display the url, I'm afraid you'll have to Google it. Anyway, thanks very much to all my reviewers!
Mariana- Of course I remember you! Thanks for the compliment- I'm glad you liked this idea. And your English is actually better than most peoples' here in the States. Thanks!
mierin-lanfear- Though I did come up with the bipolar theory on my own, there is quite a bit about it on the web. But there are some flaws with it, so that may be why it's not well-known. And yes, it's probably a good thing that we don't know everything about Holmes, or else he would cease to be so interesting. Thanks for the review!
BaskervilleBeauty- We can only speculate about what would have made him realize his true self, but his time in hiatus likely had something to do with it. There's a plot bunny for a profound bit of fanfiction. Thank you for reviewing!
Anozira- Exactly right with the bipolar and Holmes's strength and likeability. Who doesn't like a superhero? Thanks for reviewing!
Masked Phantom- I'm glad you like the bit about his childhood, and I'm hoping to expand on that eventually. Psychology is really very intriguing, especially the research aspect, as it is such a young science. Thanks for the compliments!
The Sometime Scribbler- I haven't known anyone to call Holmes two-dimensional, but there is certainly a lot that people have added to him. And yes, I like his flaws as well- it's what makes him human. Thanks for the review!
georgie d- I did email you a few months ago to let you know that you could cite this, but I guess that's pretty useless now. Sorry if it's too late. Anyway, I agree about Freud. The fact that he lived during the same time period also makes people associate the two together, and the fact that Freud is still in the public's perception of psychology doesn't help matters. I'm glad you liked this- thank you!
HowAreYouToday- Thanks for pointing that out about the bipolar- it's not something I would have thought of. I'll admit I'm biased towards the bipolar theory because I'm interested in medicine, but the cocaine/boredom theory works just as well. Thanks very much for the compliments!
silvertongue04- I'm glad you liked the last chapter and I hope you enjoyed this as well. Thanks for the review!
Dreamsprite5- It's not as though you can blame Freud- he was still a pioneer, even if he wasn't very scientific, but I do agree with you. I personally think that Holmes genuinely did not appreciate women, but the mysteries surrounding him are certainly appealing. Thank you!
Eloquentlyspeechless- Thank you for bringing up that point about "The Dying Detective". It only goes to show that Holmes is always appealing, even if he does have wax on his face. I'm not a fan of Snape, but I do see the similarity you mentioned. By the way, would you mind if I put up your George Carlin quote on my profile on this site? The last part of your name is at odds with your review, (or maybe that's the point), and I really did appreciate it- thanks!
Mizamour- Thanks very much for the kind compliments! Psychology is very interesting. Thanks!
Mysterywriter221- I await your next chapter in suspense!
Moonjava- It is certainly something about his faults that makes him so appealing and human. I agree- thanks for the review!
Gomen-ne-Yami- Thank you! It's very kind of you to use Hermione Granger in complimenting me :)
sapphirestars- I'm glad you liked it and that you agree with me. I love psychology, particularly the cognitive and neurological aspects that have now replaced Freud's theories. I used to draw and I do like anime- I'll certainly look up this Detective Conan. Is it in comic book form or on something like Cartoon Network? Thanks very much for the review!