Why Sherlock Holmes is Immortal: An Introduction

Sherlock Holmes graced the literary world with his presence in 1887. Initially writing with the sole intent to earn pocket change after a struggling medical practice, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle soon found himself flabbergasted at just how popular the character had become. Over a hundred years later, Holmes has stood the test of time like few others, earning the title of the most portrayed fictional character in film and television. As of this writing (2019), the love for Holmes has not waned in the slightest, with the latest incarnation being two vastly different takes on the character: a 21st century Japanese woman, and a ridiculous caricature in a Christmas comedy.

This, let us say, series of articles aim to dissect the Sherlock Holmes stories in order to answer the questions of why this particular figure and the surrounding mythos has stood the test of time, and why the abstract concept of the great detective manages to keep marching forward with no signs of stopping. In doing so, there is scope to unearth something deeper about the human psyche, as many people and cultures across the world have adapted and transformed Holmes to fit in with their own traditions, whether it be in Russia (Приключения Шерлока Холмса и доктора Ватсона) or even Bangladesh (আমাদের শার্লক হোমস্).

As there is much ground to cover for the task at hand, the analysis will be split into two major sections. Section A will aim to dissect the mythos to unearth what made the Sherlock Holmes stories so appealing in the first place. This will require a close reading of the original canon as well as taking history and context into consideration. In addition, biographical criticism will be utilized in order to draw out some details of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s real life experience(s) that led to the conception of his famous stories. Section B will take a macro look at the character in order to answer for his relevancy throughout the ages. This section will be more analytical, even philosophical in its approach, and will utilize methodologies of deconstruction and Freudian psychoanalysis in order to test the claims that will be made. Hopefully, by the end of the entire discussion, a clearer image will have been painted of the great detective, his stories, legacy and everything else that he entails.

LYRICS: Forget Me

A little something something
A little sun and rain
You must be going somewhere
Why don’t you miss the train?

Throw your arms around me
Drown in memories
Drops of sun awaken
Under silent dreams

Reminisce
Reminisce

A little bit of knowing
Knowing what to do
Confiscate emotions
What do you have to lose?

Your arms are slowly falling
In the memories
Take the train to nowhere
Into silent dreams

Don’t forget me
Don’t forget me

Reminisce
Reminisce

LYRICS: Moonlight

Words and letters are a hindrance to the mind.
Laughter’s the language I can use and I will find
the truth that lies beyond the veil, I look behind;
turn back forward, let us find ourselves tonight.
Reach through the echos, reach another height.
Dead ends, the dead ends cannot hurt us or our pride
Moonlight shines upon the countless paths we tried
But what we are looking for sleeps so sound inside

Then we’ll find a place to call our own
Then we’ll find a place to make our home
Reach through the echoes
Under the moon-

-Light up the night sky with the fire that’s burning in-
-side of your heart, which I will take all my shelter in
Underneath all the wounds we are part of the same family
Moonlight please shine on us, shine on the path we seek

Now we’re marching through the woods, the road it lies ahead
Deep within the heart is where the magic rests
Call out to the night and we will find a way
Let me take your hand, the wolves will light the way
Reach through the echoes, reach the mountain top
Dead ends can’t hold us back, we will never stop
Moonlight shines upon the countless paths we tried
And what we are looking for has woken up inside

And we found a place to call our own
And we found a place to make our home
Reach through the echoes
Under the moon-

-Light up the night sky with the fire that’s burning in-
-side of your heart, which I will take my shelter in
Underneath all the wounds we are part of the same family
Moonlight please shine on us, shine on the song we sing

No matter how dark it gets
You will come home safely
No matter how dark it gets
You will come home safely

LYRICS: Your Own

You’re takin’ my tie, takin’ all of my time
You’re givin’ no reason, gimme that smile
With you on my mind, as you swing by
Breakin down my walls with your scent and I
Don’t know what to do with you cause
I’m losing all of my senses
Don’t know what to do with you

Can’t focus on the words, lipstick’s red
By the time it’s all done and said
I’m lying on your bed going head to head
We’re going at it til the sun is set
Don’t know what to do
Cause I’m losing all of my senses
Don’t know what to do with you

We’re running outta time, shut me up
Crashing into things, crash into my heart
You push me hard and then you pull me close
Marking me as your own

You’re walkin’ and I stare, everywhere
You’re running your hand through my hair
Lips so dark, lips so red
Lips on me, I’m so *gasp*
I don’t know what to do with you
Cause I’m losing all my senses
Don’t know what to do with you

Devilish wink, clothes so tight
Heavenly voice that sounds so right
Picture perfect everything
Blood pumping, I’m all in
I don’t know what to do with you
Cause you know that I can’t stop now
Don’t know what do with you

We’re running outta time, shut me up
Crashing into things, crash into my heart
You push me hard and then you pull me close
Marking me as your own

Across the misty light you shine a body
That is so divine, I see you’ve caught me
I’m so out of breath, out of breath
You’re always always in my head
I see you’ve drawn your net all around me
Swimmin’ round, you know that you have caught me
Feeling you cover me
Feeling you all over me
I feel your lips, your touch, you kiss my body
Dig your nails inside me as you ride me
Taunt me as you gasp for air
Screaming as you pull my hair
We’re running outta time, shut me up
Crashing into things, crash into my heart
You push me hard and then you pull me close
Marking me as your own
Baby I’ll be here, I’m not losing you and I’m not not losing us
You know I’ll be right here
Give me your hand, and let me put this ring on you cause you have now
Marked me as your own

Dr. Jekyll, the Shadow and the Modern World

 

Popular fiction has always had the unfortunate reputation of being looked down upon by literary critics. Therefore in 1886, when Robert Louis Stevenson published The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde he was expectedly ridiculed by his peers. However, the story of Jekyll and Hyde contained within it an essence that struck at the core of society in a manner so profound that it has resonated through time, and has remained within the human consciousness even in the current post-modern age. This essay aims to deconstruct this novel through Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytic theories, and thereby will attempt to answer the question as to why society today gravitates to the concepts presented by the novel in more or less the same manner society did more than a hundred years ago.

To summarize the novel briefly, a well known doctor by the name of Henry Jekyll creates a concoction that transforms him into a hideous man who is capable of carrying out vile acts of crime. This man, who goes by the name of Edward Hyde, does not present even the slightest hint of remorse for the horrors he commits. While initially carrying out this unnerving transformation process for the simple purpose of scientific experimentation, Jekyll soon begins changing into his alter ego without his own volition and in horror of losing himself completely, the character takes his own life. Both Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis can be utilized to dissect what is actually going on. Freud speaks about the three levels of awareness of the mind. According to him, most of the contents of our psyche reside within the unconscious, and much of our actions and knee jerk reactions occur due to how this unconscious segment of the mind operates. He states that when it comes to experiences we wish not to tackle, we instinctively push them into the deep recesses of the unconscious, i.e repression. In the novel, Jekyll is a law abiding, well respected citizen. However, he longs to let loose his instinctual, ‘uncivilized’ urges which reside within the id. His ego is always trying to confine these urges, as they will be in very heavy conflict with what his superego dictates. As a result, they are repressed, simmering and boiling inside the unconscious until Jekyll is unable to come to terms with what is going on. He concludes that if he were to separate the two, “life would be relieved of all that was unbearable”  (Stevenson 74). Most unfortunately, however, Hyde turns out to be what leads to his own downfall. This character embodies what Carl Jung describes as the ‘shadow’. Jung states that everyone has a shadow and the less it is brought into the forefront of the individual’s conscious life, the more powerful and difficult to manage it will become (Psychology and Religion 131). He further emphasizes that the shadow could be an individual’s connection to primitive animal instincts that gets hidden away in early childhood (Answer to Job 12). Hyde’s appearance is described as ‘something downright detestable’ (Stevenson 45) and in some instances he is referred to not as man, but as an ‘‘abnormal and misbegotten’’ creature (Stevenson 94). Jekyll’s primitive animal instincts have thus manifested themselves in not only mannerism and action, but in actual physical form as well. Here, one may look at Freud’s list of defense mechanisms. Repression, as mentioned before, falls under this category but there are others that also apply. Once Mr Hyde is let loose, these repressed urges find an outlet through displacement and projection onto innocent civilians; Jekyll has also regressed back into a primal form in his transformations. Unfortunately, the two sides cannot be reconciled, sublimation is not achieved and there is no individuation between the shadow and the ego. Like the contents of a container that finds even the tiniest of openings, the shadow bursts forth and takes over Henry Jekyll, in both identity and livelihood.

Now, the question arises as to why this dark tale has lingered within the populace for so long. Perhaps a valid answer to that would be because it strikes at a central dilemma and duality of the human being. There are countless tales of good versus evil, where the morally righteous triumphs against those who wish to tarnish the beauty of innocent life. What then does the morally righteous do when they find that the very evil they have been battling against actually resides deep within them? In The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes that man is both a complex, self aware species capable of symbolic thought, yet in the same vein, is self aware to the point where he knows that at the end of they day, he too is nothing but an animal with animal instincts who will one day perish (Becker 26). This conflict within him is what, the author argues, causes much psychological problem. This conflict is then perhaps at the heart of what man views as good and bad within himself. In modern times, this has gone past mere psychoanalysis and literature, and has become a trope in new areas of creative works such as comics and film. For example, if one is unable to remember Jekyll and Hyde, the image of the meek Dr Bruce Banner and the earth shattering Incredible Hulk can serve to be very close substitutes. Even in some popular video games nowadays, the player is not limited to one linear storyline. He or she can choose to follow multiple paths to reach different endings and either be hailed as a hero or feared as a villain. One such game that puts an interesting spin on this concept is Infamous (2009). The protagonist is in search of a force of nature known as ‘the beast’. If the player chooses to take the villainous route, the twist unravels itself magnificently as he utters the simple line ‘‘I have become the beast.’’ Apart from the character of the Hulk, a similarly brutal figure is that of Wolverine, a much beloved hero of Marvel Comics. Wolverine’s character exudes strength, brutality and ruthless savagery. Even his superhero name is that of a vicious animal. Thus, it is quite telling that the 2017 film, Logan, deconstructs this animal nature and strips the character down to his most vulnerable human form. The title of the film, too then, speaks volumes.

It is apparent that the modern, and subsequently, the postmodern world, has made man’s duality a central dictum of thought. Whether it be a self realization of Freud in Disillusionment of the War (1915) or the physical confrontation of Logan against a bestial clone of himself in Logan (2017), the idea of the shadow behind the civilized man is a concept that is not retreating from the mass consciousness anytime soon. This is why the story of Jekyll and Hyde, though being one of shock, awe and lacking high literary merit, has survived to this day. Modern man knows instinctively that at the heart of the novel, he can find himself at his most powerful and his most vulnerable. His duty, then, is to achieve what Jung calls ‘individuation’, i.e the process of bringing the shadow and unconscious into the conscious mind in as safe and healthy a manner as possible, because for every Jekyll out there, a Hyde lurks not too far behind.

 

Works Cited

 

Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. Free Press, 1997. Print.

 

Jung, C. G. (Carl Gustav), 1875-1961. Psychology And Religion. New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1963. Print.

 

Jung, C G, and R F. C. Hull. Answer to Job. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973. Print.

 

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London:
New English Library, 1974. Print.

 

Image: https://www.goldstar.com/events/williamstown-nj/jekyll-and-hyde-tickets

Breathe – Part II

There is no string of words to describe what happened; no known set of vocabulary that can give you even a semblance of the pain that ripped through me.

Must have fractured a hundred bones. Organs probably became jelly from the impact. A bone and tissue soup. Yeah, that’s it. That’s a nice set of words, isn’t it?

But I didn’t die.

What the hell. What in the actual living hell. I would have screamed, I would have cried. God, I would have even laughed at the absurdity of it all.

But there was nothing left of my face.

I was just…there. The pain had stopped and I was simply existing, aware of all that happened. I couldn’t quite see, hear or even smell. My senses were dialed down a few thousand notches, lacking the whole sensory perception thing which we usually have.

Hashtag I’m alive, right?

Time went by. Moments, seconds, minutes. I should have been losing my grip on reality. Should have. But the whole thing was just so…insurmountably absurd. Did I die? If I did, how did I retain my consciousness? Or was this a long drawn out hallucination before everything went dark? Was this some sort midway point where my soul was patiently waiting to be severed from my body? I didn’t know.

Time marched on.

Suddenly.

Pain.

Would you be surprised if I told you that I would have rather preferred hitting the ground again? No? Jumping off was quick; it hit hard and it hit fast. This time though, oh boy, this time the pain was slow. I hadn’t realized due to my mulling over the situation, but a few seconds earlier I had begun feeling sensations again. Thank you, human body. You never fail to disappoint, even in death.

Ugh.

It was as if I was being fed through a meat grinder in reverse. Very intimately. Very slowly. The pain tunneled through my arms, legs and torso. I felt my body split open a million times over. Every synapse reconnecting, every nerve ending coming back to life tore me open from the inside. But it was the head. It was the head where Satan himself had perched down with the entire weight of hell. Have you ever seen soup clumping together to form flesh? Because that was happening to me.

Breathe.

I opened my eyes. My head had almost returned to a fully functioning form. Once the rest of my body had become solid enough, convulsions and writhing took over automatically. I flailed here, I flailed here; limbs cracked and smashed against the ground and one another. If I didn’t re-break bones in the process, then hurrah.

And then, my new throat climbed up the inside of new neck.

And then, my vocal cords returned.

And then, I screamed.

My cries ripped open the dead of the night, rising in intensity, building and cascading and drowning itself. I wanted it to end. I wanted to die. But this WAS dying. No, this was worse.

Breathe.

This was me being denied the one thing I had been building myself up to for two months. This was punishment. This was God, or karma, or whatever the hell was out there shoving the middle finger to my face. This was life saying in ever so an unsubtle manner: fuck you.

Panting, gasping and bleeding I pushed myself up with whatever muscle I could use. My consciousness was distorted. Comprehension of the whole ordeal was out of the question, but even in that state, I knew that being found by the neighborhood would be a horrible follow-up to everything that had happened so far. I crawled: elbow, drag, elbow, drag and pulled myself into the bushes.

To me, the entire experience felt like it had lasted hours, when it could not have been more than fifteen minutes at most. Still, that was enough time for the residents of the surrounding buildings to begin snapping open one after the other. Crap. This was bad. My brain had just come back to life. How the hell would I have any time to plan my way around this? I needed to run. I needed my legs. Effing hell, they were still part jelly.

Through the narrow passages of pain and helplessness, fleeting sparks of anger cried out for attention. I had suffered enough. I had been in constant agony for weeks. I had been mutilated by the laws of physics, only to have the laws of biology turn themselves over on their heads. I couldn’t die. I was angry. I was furious. I wanted to scream. But before being able to do anything, the laws of biology had one final thing to say; as I focused on my legs, they accelerated in reconstruction.

In seconds, I pushed myself to my feet and looked around the darkness, still panting, still bleeding, but still alive. What the hell?

Breathe.

What.

Breathe.

The-

‘Who’s out there?’

Fuck.

Charlie Puth: How Long – Music Video Analysis

If you have watched the music video for Charlie Puth’s ‘How Long’, then it is highly likely that some things have crossed your mind. Namely:

charlieputh-howlong-airplane
What-
charlie-puth-how-long-weird-lip-bite
-the hell-
charlie-puth-how-long-fly
-is he doing?

You’re not alone, my dear stranger on the interwebs; just about all of us were scratching our heads through most of the video. A little bizarre, a little charming, Puth’s physical performance in this was quite an interesting spectacle. However, though it appears nonsensical, a close observation can bring to light the deeper implications of what he is trying to tell us. So sit back, relax, and let a lonely twenty four year old man on the internet break everything down for you before he breaks down in tears himself. 

The video begins as Puth quietly walks into view amidst street noises, giving way to the bass intro. Though appearing a little somber at first, his demeanor changes quickly and he begins singing and dancing to the upbeat rhythm. The dancing he displays is quite objectively horrible subpar at best, lacking proper coordination and style. Could there be any deeper meaning behind this goofball behaviour? M a y b e. Maybe it could imply that he is not taking the entire situation seriously, letting go of control. This claim can be juxtaposed alongside the lyrics of the song itself, where the speaker is talking to his significant other. It is apparent that he is exasperated at her attitude towards him because he cheated on her after being intoxicated by alcohol. Can we say that he had lost control in a situation where he needed to be more in control of himself? I suppose we can.

As the video progresses, Puth enters a building, still dancing around.

charlie-puth-how-long-table-dance
Even on a table!
charlie-puth-how-long-1.jpg
The more you look at it the creepier it gets.

Ultimately he stops in front of a painting of a woman who appears to be engulfed in flames. Her eyes are covered by a red ribbon.

charlie-puth-how-long-painting
*obligatory Dragon Ball Z reference*

In this instance, Puth’s entire upbeat demeanor comes to a screeching halt. His expression takes the form of a quiet sadness; you see hints of desperation and tranquil fury in the longing way he looks at the painting.

charlie-puth-how-long-sad
Aww 😥

It’s a short ‘look away and you’ll miss it!‘ moment but he lets his head hang down in sorrow at the very end of the shot.

charlie-puth-how-long-very-sad
Or is it shame?

Many fans speculate that the woman portrayed is supposed to represent Selena Gomez, though there is no proper evidence to corroborate these claims. Regardless, a point of interest can be raised: is this the woman Puth cheated on? Or is she the one he had the drunken affair with? In the lyrics, he appears to strongly favor his old partner and fervently denies that he has any emotional attachments with the other woman. The flames engulfing the figure could portray Puth’s disdain and perhaps even raw hatred towards her.

While the visuals focus on this painting, the song itself is in the middle of the bridge by this point, right before the final chorus. The next shot has him looking quite…

charlie-puth-how-long-high
…high. I didn’t have a witty remark this time okay? It’s 4 am and I should be in bed.

But let’s roll back a bit. The scene just after he lowers his head is very nice when it comes to video composition. Observe:

charlie-puth-how-long-high-low-comparison

It’s a sudden shift from solemn sadness to elated intoxication! Puth has taken to clouding his mind to run from the pain of this whole experience until eventually…

charlie-puth-how-long-liftpng
WHAT?!

He begins levitating, of course. The final chorus kicks in with full force and Puth gets lifted off the ground and into the air, somehow dancing even more awkwardly than before.

charlie-puth-how-long-fly
B*tch I’m FABULOUS.

I’m terribly sorry for the chronology issues but we must roll back once more! During that moment with the painting, the video lingers on a woman in a car for two small shots.

charlie-puth-how-long-car-lady
That face you make when you don’t want to have your picture taken but in case the picture does get taken, you want to look cool.

You’re probably asking, in your most eloquent manner of speaking: ‘who dat?

She could be his beloved who, in her disappointment, has chosen to leave him. The car symbolizes her lack of desire to remain and and to quite literally move on.

charlie-puth-how-long-dodge-car
I guess she…DODGED a bullet, am I right?

😀

No?

Jokes aside, it’s time to wrap things up.

The building in which the painting has been housed could serve to represent Puth’s own mind, a space of shame and regret, which he enters to wallow in his sadness and eventually leave. The increased ridicule of his dancing and disregard of physics as the song progresses may be a way of him trying to get over the sadness of his actions through increased partying and distractions, until at the very end, reality sets in and he must come back down to join the real world again.

charlie-puth-how-long-shoes.png
Telling us that it’s time to snap back to reality as well. What are you doing reading this? Go do your homework.