Sherlock is a rather strange man, is he not? He seems to think himself superior to everyone. He has strange interactions with other human beings. He doesn’t have a girlfriend, or a boyfriend. He doesn’t talk to his family. He smokes copious amounts of tobacco, does heroin, and even tries some opium. We don’t know what in the heck he makes with all of his chemistry stuff.
I briefly addressed Sherlock’s personality and mental state in my post about him being a busybody. There’s more to it, of course.
Some would say Sherlock has something like Asperger’s syndrome, which isn’t an official diagnosis anymore by the way. Asperger’s is on the autism spectrum. Autistic people have a hard time with social interaction. They can be really smart, as in the case of savants, like Temple Grandin, but the majority of the autism spectrum is characterized by people who are behind in emotional and mental capabilities compared to other people their age. There are also sensory issues involved. Another telling trait that autistic people tend to display is an obsession with a certain thing, perhaps just a repetition, think Sheldon Cooper and his door knocking *Penny**Penny**Penny*.
My youngest brother is autistic. He’s not a savant. He’s behind other teenagers his age mentally. He doesn’t do well with school. He’s not stupid, he’s just not on the same level as other kids his age. He has the trademark problem of having difficult social interactions. He doesn’t know how to act in some situations. He doesn’t know if something is embarrassing or not, much like Sheldon Cooper not recognizing sarcasm, which can be an actual symptom of autism by the way. My little brother does get obsessed over certain things from time to time, and then, yes, there are the sensory issues. For the longest time he didn’t like ice cream. He also talked like a robot for a while. Raising an autistic child is an interesting experience to say the least.
I tell you about my brother to illustrate the fact that I do know a little about autism. I don’t think Sherlock is autistic. The show Sherlock may depict him as being this unfeeling know-it-all, but the stories do not. Sherlock may be impatient at times in the stories, but he is not unfeeling. He knows when people are upset. He’s actually very good at telling when people are upset, like really, really good. If Sherlock and the guy from Lie to Me had met up, they would have a blast. By the way, somebody bring that show back, it was awesome.
Sherlock does not have difficult interpersonal interactions. He may seem like a jerk, but talking is not difficult for him. He is able to ingratiate himself with almost anyone. John says multiple times that Sherlock has a special affinity for women, although, Sherlock does admit himself that John is better with women than he is. Sherlock is so good with interpersonal interactions that he can pretend to be other people. I don’t know about you guys, but I have never heard of an autistic person being an actor. I could be wrong. I could never imagine my little brother doing such a thing.
Where we do get Sherlock on the symptom list is the obsession part of it. Sherlock is obsessed. He’s obsessed with mysteries. He doesn’t take social clues concerning when to back off of something. He may be good at personal interaction elsewhere, but when it comes to a mystery, Sherlock doesn’t know how to butt out. He makes a book about all the different types of tobacco ash. Let me tell you something, that’s an obsession. He has these habits. He has a pipe he smokes only when he’s agitated. He has specific things he likes to do. He doesn’t like people touching his things.
I think it’s more a case of Sherlock having something like OCD rather than having Asperger’s, but as I supposed in my previous post, maybe Sherlock has this obsession due to something else in his life. Maybe he’s spending all his energy with this obsession to block something else out or to fill a void in his life. He doesn’t have a life. When John is not with him, it seems that his life ceases to exist. Sure, he does some cases on his own, but he doesn’t have friends outside of John. He doesn’t have people he hangs out with. He doesn’t hang out with his brother. He never mentions his parents. The personal life he has with John, however impersonal it may seem at times, is the most intimate way in which Sherlock seems to interact with anybody, but then again, maybe he has all of us fooled.
We could look at a condition like psychopathy. Psychopaths are very good at manipulation. They may have multiple lives and seem to be different people to each person. They’re chameleons of sorts. Sherlock is very, very good at pretending to be other people. Psychopathy can be characterized by meanness and Sherlock has that coming out of his ears. I do have to contend with the possibility of psychopathy because Sherlock does actually seems to care for people, whereas a true psychopath lacks in the caring department. We also have to look at the idea that Sherlock is incredibly good at lying, which is also a characteristic of psychopaths. The caring could just be a ruse.
The Sherlock television series played at an idea. It was suggested that Sherlock Holmes solved murders, but perhaps he might also commit murders. One day there would be a body and it would have been Sherlock Holmes who put it there. If Sherlock did happen to be a psychopath, that might very well be true. He would be good enough at lying to make it appear as if someone else had done it. It’s kind of the same idea as a fireman starting fires so he would have a fire to put out.
Ultimately, John is not with Sherlock all the time. We know very little of the real Sherlock Holmes. We know he has a brother named Mycroft who works in the government. Maybe Mycroft is really his brother, but maybe he’s not. The most real thing about Sherlock Holmes are his addictions to tobacco and heroin. His body is physically addicted to these things. He cannot break away from his addictions.
There is an a possibility that Sherlock made Sherlock Holmes up. Who is named Sherlock after all? Sherlock could have made this personality up. He could have made this mystery-solving man up, for what reason, I don’t know. He could really be a murderer. He could be a Moriarty or a Milverton.
Drawing a parallel to real life, some have suggested that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself was Jack the Ripper. Jack the Ripper seemed to be a rather intelligent man. He always got away and he murdered his victims with surgical precision. Arthur would have been both smart and able to do the things to a body that Jack the Ripper did to a body. I don’t believe these claims are true because there are other more worthy Jack the Ripper candidates such as H.H. Holmes, who surprisingly chose the last name Holmes for himself.
You have to consider, the person who would be the best at committing crime would be the person who studies it. If you studied crime, you would know what to do in order not to get caught. If you were then on the investigative team examining that crime, you would know all the information the police knew. You could plant clues to lead them astray. You would know the habits of the other investigators and what items they might miss during an examination. By being this consulting detective, Sherlock has mostly placed himself above suspicion.
In the end, Sherlock himself is the greatest mystery in the Sherlock Holmes stories.
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Essays, Sherlock Holmes