A Study in Scarlet

Themes and Colors
Observation and Deduction Theme Icon
Injustice and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Revenge and Murder Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Study in Scarlet, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Observation and deduction are the lifeblood of A Study in Scarlet, especially in terms of the novel’s format and characterization of Sherlock Holmes. Much of the novel (all but five chapters out of fourteen) is presented as “reminiscences” from John Watson’s journal, a record of his observations of both the case and Holmes. The first interaction between Watson and the consulting detective represents the essence of the Holmes-Watson dynamic throughout the story…

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The novel belongs to the genre of detective fiction, and it is very much concerned with justice, which in its most immediate form entails the pursuit of the murderer. However, as the novel progresses, other forms of justice, or rather injustice, begin to emerge. Most prominent among the story’s injustices are those committed by the Mormon characters. In a controversial and perhaps exaggerated depiction of Mormonism, Doyle presents the Mormons’ actions and practices as cruel…

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Though the novel itself may not be misogynistic, it reveals sexist attitudes and practices toward women in both England and America at the time that Doyle was writing. Holmes and Watson, the story’s protagonist and narrator, both casually insult women as being vain and weak, despite lack of evidence or evidence to the contrary from the story’s female characters. For example, when Holmes recounts to Watson the competition between Gregson and Lestrade, he…

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The novel’s title, A Study in Scarlet, is drawn from Holmes’ reference to murder as a “scarlet thread…running through the colourless skein of life.” That the “skein of life” is “colourless” suggests that much of everyday life, to Holmes at least, is uninteresting. In contrast, the passionate motivations that culminate in a murder make it vibrant and exciting for him. To Holmes, Jefferson Hope’s murder of Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson is…

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