A Study in Scarlet


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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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.
Injustice and Hypocrisy Theme Icon

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, shameful, and hypocritical. For example, when the Mormons find John Ferrier and Lucy on the brink of death in the desert, a fictionalized version of the Mormon leader Brigham Young reveals that he is willing to let them die if they do not convert to Mormonism. When Ferrier first encounters the Mormons in the desert, they claim that they “seek a refuge from the violent man and from the godless.” However, the narrator hints, in a very sensationalized account of the Mormon vigilante Danite band, that the “saints” themselves become violent against any potential dissenters, who mysteriously disappear if they voice their misgivings about Mormon practices. When Brigham Young gives Ferrier a month to force Lucy to marry either Drebber or Stangerson, the Mormons spend the next thirty days psychologically intimidating Ferrier by sending threatening notes and by leaving a countdown of numbers all over his house and farm. Eventually, John Ferrier becomes a victim of their violence, as Stangerson murders him in the name of keeping the Mormon faith. Jefferson Hope’s murders – carried out as revenge for Drebber and Strangerson’s actions – are therefore complicated in terms of justice. He sees his revenge as an act of justice, while the police see the crimes as injustices.

Doyle also reveals injustice and hypocrisy in the police force. For example, in Part 1, Constable John Rance readily accepts Holmes’ bribe to tell his account of the moments after Drebber’s death. Though detectives Lestrade and Gregson are “the pick of a bad lot” in the Scotland Yard, meaning that they are the best of a bunch of bad detectives, they are nonetheless inferior detectives to Sherlock Holmes and yet they often claim the credit for cases that Holmes solves. This pattern of injustice initially makes Sherlock reluctant to solve Drebber’s case, the credit for which Lestrade and Gregson also claim. In the beginning of the novel, Holmes remarks to Watson that though the detectives might admit their inferiority to him when privately asking for his help, they would never admit it to anyone else. Intent on exposing their hypocrisy, Watson publishes his journal recounting “the study in scarlet,” informing the public of Holmes’ efforts in bringing the murderer to justice, while simultaneously achieving for Holmes a professional or historical kind of justice by exposing Gregson’s and Lestrade’s inferior detective work. The book itself, then, is presented as an act of “justice” in the way it gives Holmes the credit he rightfully deserves. At the same time, the book plays with the idea of justice and injustice, and finding the gray areas that connect the two.

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Injustice and Hypocrisy Quotes in A Study in Scarlet

Below you will find the important quotes in A Study in Scarlet related to the theme of Injustice and Hypocrisy.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air — or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless, meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had, considerably more freely than I ought.

Related Characters: John H. Watson (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Let me see — what are my other shortcomings. I get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my mouth for days on end. You must not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I’ll soon be right. What have you to confess now? It’s just as well for two fellows to know the worst of one another before they begin to live together.

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), John H. Watson
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

“There are no crimes and criminals in these days,” he said, querulously. “What is the use of having brains in our profession? I know well that I have it in me to make my name famous. No man lives or has ever lived who has brought the same amount of study and of natural talent to the detection of crime which I have done. And what is the result? There is no crime to detect, or, at most, some bungling villainy with a motive so transparent that even a Scotland Yard official can see through it.”

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), John H. Watson
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

“Gregson is the smartest of the Scotland Yarders,” my friend remarked; “he and Lestrade are the pick of a bad lot. They are both quick and energetic, but conventional — shockingly so. They have their knives into one another, too. They are as jealous as a pair of professional beauties. There will be some fun over this case if they are both put upon the scent.”

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), John H. Watson, Lestrade, Tobias Gregson
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

On his rigid face there stood an expression of horror, and, as it seemed to me, of hatred, such as I have never seen upon human features. This malignant and terrible contortion, combined with the low forehead, blunt nose, and prognathous jaw, gave the dead man a singularly simious and ape-like appearance, which was increased by his writhing, unnatural posture. I have seen death in many forms, but never has it appeared to me in a more fearsome aspect than in that dark, grimy apartment, which looked out upon one of the main arteries of suburban London.

Related Characters: John H. Watson (speaker), Enoch Drebber
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

Oh, bless you, it doesn’t matter in the least. If the man is caught, it will be on account of their exertions; if he escapes, it will be in spite of their exertions. It’s heads I win and tails you lose. Whatever they do, they will have followers. “Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l’admire.”

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), John H. Watson, Lestrade, Tobias Gregson
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

He had always determined, deep down in his resolute heart, that nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such a marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace. Whatever he might think of the Mormon doctrines, upon that one point he was inflexible.

Related Characters: John Ferrier, Lucy Ferrier
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

Yes, a dangerous matter — so dangerous that even the most saintly dared only whisper their religious opinions with bated breath, lest something which fell from their lips might be misconstrued, and bring down a swift retribution upon them. The victims of persecution had now turned persecutors on their own account and persecutors of the most terrible description. Not the Inquisition of Seville, nor the German Vehmgericht, nor the Secret Societies of Italy, were ever able to put a more formidable machinery in motion than that which cast a cloud over the State of Utah.

Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

The supply of adult women was running short, and polygamy without a female population on which to draw was a barren doctrine indeed. Strange rumours began to be bandied about — rumours of murdered immigrants and rifled camps in regions where Indians had never been seen. Fresh women appeared in the harems of the Elders — women who pined and wept, and bore upon their faces the traces of an unextinguishable horror. Belated wanderers upon the mountains spoke of gangs of armed men, masked, stealthy, and noiseless, who flitted by them in the darkness. These tales and rumours took substance and shape, and were corroborated and recorroborated, until they resolved themselves into a definite name. To this day, in the lonely ranches of the West, the name of the Danite Band, or the Avenging Angels, is a sinister and an ill-omened one.

Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

“We have come,” continued Stangerson, “at the advice of our fathers to solicit the hand of your daughter for whichever of us may seem good to you and to her. As I have but four wives and Brother Drebber here has seven, it appears to me that my claim is the stronger one.”

“Nay, nay, Brother Stangerson,” cried the other; “the question is not how many wives we have, but how many we can keep. My father has now given over his mills to me, and I am the richer man.”

“But my prospects are better,” said the other, warmly. “When the Lord removes my father, I shall have his tanning yard and his leather factory. Then I am your elder, and am higher in the Church.”

“It will be for the maiden to decide,” rejoined young Drebber, smirking at his own reflection in the glass. “We will leave it all to her decision.”

Related Characters: Enoch Drebber (speaker), Joseph Stangerson (speaker), John Ferrier, Lucy Ferrier, Enoch Drebber, Elder Stangerson
Page Number: 93-94
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

“It don’t much matter to you why I hated these men,” he said; “it’s enough that they were guilty of the death of two human beings — a father and a daughter — and that they had, therefore, forfeited their own lives. After the lapse of time that has passed since their crime, it was impossible for me to secure a conviction against them in any court. I knew of their guilt though, and I determined that I should be judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one. You’d have done the same, if you have any manhood in you, if you had been in my place.”

Related Characters: Jefferson Hope (speaker), Sherlock Holmes, John H. Watson, John Ferrier, Lucy Ferrier, Enoch Drebber, Joseph Stangerson, Lestrade, Tobias Gregson
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

Let the high God judge between us. Choose and eat. There is death in one and life in the other. I shall take what you leave. Let us see if there is justice upon the earth, or if we are ruled by chance.

Related Characters: Jefferson Hope (speaker), Enoch Drebber
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

“…It is an open secret that the credit of this smart capture belongs entirely to the well-known Scotland Yard officials, Messrs Lestrade and Gregson. The man was apprehended, it appears, in the rooms of a certain Mr Sherlock Holmes, who has himself, as an amateur, shown some talent in the detective line, and who, with such instructors may hope in time to attain some degree of their skill. It is expected that a testimonial of some sort will be presented to the two officers as a fitting recognition of their services.”

“Didn’t I tell you so when we started?” cried Sherlock Holmes, with a laugh. “That’s the result of all our Study in Scarlet; to get them a testimonial!”

“Never mind,” I answered; “I have all the facts in my journal, and the public shall know them.”

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), John H. Watson (speaker), Jefferson Hope, Lestrade, Tobias Gregson
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis: