The Red-Headed League

by: Arthur Conan Doyle

Dr. John Watson

Even though he’s the narrator of the story, Watson plays a surprisingly limited role. In fact, he does not help solve the case or even contribute to the action of the story in any way. That is not to say, however, that Watson is irrelevant. In fact, Watson is just as much the center of the story’s form as Sherlock Holmes is the center of the story’s plot. Watson shapes the story for readers, who see and understand only what Watson himself experiences. Watson’s good nature, eagerness, and warm feelings for Holmes enliven the story and transform it from a mere recounting of a crime and its solution into a rich study of human behavior.

Doyle transforms the story from a straightforward mystery into a complex study by putting readers directly into Watson’s shoes. Although far from dull, Watson is like most readers in that he simply isn’t as observant as Holmes. The fact that he is so average and genial also makes him instantly accessible to readers. Readers don’t always understand Holmes’s reasoning, but they admire him all the more because of Watson’s warm descriptions of him. Watson also tries to redeem Holmes for readers by suggesting that he is a benefactor of humanity, even though Holmes himself admits that he solves cases merely for his own recreation.