The Red-Headed League

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Dr. John Watson Character Analysis

Dr. John Watson is the narrator of the story, and Sherlock Holmes’ assistant. Although Holmes’ intellect and deductive prowess easily outpace Watson’s, Watson accompanies Holmes on his cases both out of fascination and a desire to improve his own detective skills. Watson is often too distracted by the extraordinary aspects of the case to be able to solve the crime. He never falters in his admiration for Holmes, though, even when Holmes does not always hold him in such high esteem. Nevertheless, they remain firm friends. Watson serves as Sherlock’s chronicler, as he records everything in his journals. Watson is pleasant and easier to get along with than Holmes (who can be intense and aloof), which proves useful in dealing with clients. His occasional blunders and cheerful attitude also makes him a more relatable character for readers than Holmes, who seems to have a superhuman capacity for rationality and deduction.

Dr. John Watson Quotes in The Red-Headed League

The The Red-Headed League quotes below are all either spoken by Dr. John Watson or refer to Dr. John Watson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam Classics edition of The Red-Headed League published in 1986.
The Red-Headed League Quotes

I took a good look at the man and endeavoured, after the fashion of my companion, to read the indications which might be presented by his dress or appearance. I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection. Our visitor bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy gray shepherd's check trousers, a not over-clean black frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain, and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down as an ornament. […] there was nothing remarkable about the man save his blazing red head.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Sherlock Holmes, Jabez Wilson
Page Number: 264-65
Explanation and Analysis:

“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.”

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), Dr. John Watson
Related Symbols: Red-Headed League
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

It was instantly opened by a bright-looking, clean-shaven young fellow, who asked him to step in.

Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:

“I should like just to remember the order of the houses here. It is a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of London. There is Mortimer's, the tobacconist, the little newspaper shop, the Coburg branch of the City and Suburban Bank, the Vegetarian Restaurant, and McFarlane's carriage-building depot. That carries us right on to the other block.”

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), Dr. John Watson
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] his brilliant reasoning power would rise to the level of intuition, until those who were unacquainted with his methods would look askance at him as on a man whose knowledge was not that of other mortals.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Sherlock Holmes
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

I trust that I am not more dense than my neighbours, but I was always oppressed with a sense of my own stupidity in my dealings with Sherlock Holmes. Here I had heard what he had heard, I had seen what he had seen, and yet from his words it was evident that he saw clearly not only what had happened but what was about to happen, while to me the whole business was still confused and grotesque.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Sherlock Holmes
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:

Holmes shot the slide across the front of his lantern and left us in pitch darkness—such an absolute darkness as I have never before experienced.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Sherlock Holmes
Related Symbols: Bank Cellar
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dr. John Watson Character Timeline in The Red-Headed League

The timeline below shows where the character Dr. John Watson appears in The Red-Headed League. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Red-Headed League
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
John Watson arrives at Sherlock Holmes’ apartment to find him talking to an elderly man with “fiery... (full context)
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Watson attempts to figure out some aspects of Wilson’s character by observing his appearance, as Holmes... (full context)
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Holmes notices what Watson is doing and smiles at him, before revealing his own conclusions about Wilson. Wilson, Holmes... (full context)
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
...for a red-headed man to apply for an unspecified role paying four pounds a week. Watson is amazed. With a laugh, Holmes remarks that it is a “little off the beaten... (full context)
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Holmes asks Watson what he thinks of the case, but Watson is completely dumbfounded by the whole story.... (full context)
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Holmes wants to go out for the afternoon to think, and asks Watson to come with him. They are going to a concert, but first, they visit Saxe-Coburg... (full context)
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
...asks for directions to the Strand and then leaves. As they walk away, Holmes tells Watson that the man who answered the door was Wilson’s assistant, Spaulding. Holmes remarks that Spaulding... (full context)
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Holmes then walks around the property and observes the neighboring buildings. He explains to Watson that he wishes to remember their exact order, and notices, amongst other buildings, the City... (full context)
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Holmes asks Watson to meet him at ten that night at Holmes’ apartment on Baker Street, and to... (full context)
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Later that night, Holmes and Watson reconvene. They are joined by Detective Jones, the policeman assigned to the case, and Mr.... (full context)
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
...lamp, telling everyone to wait silently in the dark cellar for the criminals to emerge. Watson claims that he has never experienced such “absolute darkness.” (full context)
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Holmes ends the story by explaining to Watson how he managed to solve the crime. Firstly, Holmes realized that the Red-Headed League must... (full context)
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
Watson praises Holmes for his remarkable work, declaring that Holmes “reasoned it out beautifully.” Holmes brushes... (full context)