The Red-Headed League

by: Arthur Conan Doyle

Motifs

Main ideas Motifs

Red Hair

Red hair highlights the presence of the bizarre in everyday life. Doyle repeatedly describes Jabez Wilson’s and Archie’s red hair to make this point, in addition to describing the unforgettable throng of redheaded men packing the streets of London. Doyle also emphasizes red hair to make a subtle pun on the term red herring, which is a false clue that writers often insert into their mysteries to thwart the hero’s attempts to solve the puzzle. In this case, Wilson’s and Archie’s red hair really is a red herring, because the Red-Headed League is a false clue used to divert readers’ attention from John Clay’s intended bank robbery. Doyle is nudging readers to make the connection that red hair and the Red-Headed League are mere decoys, which should theoretically make the central mystery much easier to solve.