Conan Doyle uses Watson as a narrator for two key reasons. In the first place, Watson is not as intuitive as Sherlock Holmes. In this sense, he allows the reader to join him as he attempts to live up to the master's standards. By contrast, if Sherlock Holmes were telling the story, we would have little opportunity to solve the mystery ourselves: witness, for example, Holmes’s various and sundry revelations of the truth, which preclude our participation by effectively beating us to the punch.
The second reason Conan Doyle uses Watson as a narrator is that it allows for the pace he is looking for. Even if Holmes’s character can give us a chance now and then by keeping his conclusions to himself, he is still too quick a thinker to take on the onerous task of relating all the facts in detail. A companion such as Watson, who lacks Holmes’s lightning-quick wits, is fit for the job. When Holmes’s character does appear, he serves more as a catalyst for the action in the story, bringing things to a quick and exciting climax.
The supernatural plays a major role in
As far as plot goes, Conan Doyle takes full advantage of the excitement, and power of a Gothic-style mystery-an ancient curse, and a common plotline, with two dead bodies at the hands of possibly a supernatural beast. At the same time, however, he reveals the presence of a strong faith—at least in Holmes—of a logical, rational explanation for even the most mysterious occurrences.
Thematically, the supernatural ties together questions of class, which run throughout the novel. Superstition is linked to weakness (as with the infirm Sir Charles), but most prominently with lower class status. In this sense, it is interesting that Doyle regularly refers to the superstitious commoners but only rarely lets us meet them first hand.
Both Holmes and Conan Doyle come from a very specific and presumably similar cultural milieu in which gave privileges to the educated white male and denigrated virtually every other kind of human experience. Though they relied on and even fostered what might be called a space for only men, they almost certainly had no time for homosexuals. Though they relied on the lower classes to fetch them things and rummage through their garbage, they took little account of them or their dignity either. Two arguments can be made: 1) that Holmes and Conan Doyle were racist and sexist; and 2) that the prejudices of the past cannot be judged by the standards of our current cultural moment.
It could be argued that it makes the most sense to follow a middle road—to situate classisms and racisms in their appropriate cultural context without ignoring or dismissing them, while at the same time insisting on their inappropriateness in our modern world.