The darkness of the bank cellar represents how all of Sherlock Holmes’ accomplices—John Watson, Detective Jones, and Mr. Merryweather—are figuratively “in the dark,” ignorant of the true nature of the crime because they don’t have Holmes’ capacity for deduction. Near the end of the story, Sherlock and his companions wait for the criminals, John Clay and Archie, to appear from the tunnel in the cellar. As soon as Sherlock extinguishes his lamp, the cellar is completely dark. Watson claims that he has never known such “absolute darkness” in his life, which echoes his complete confusion over the case at hand. Sherlock’s lamp represents his enlightened position, having already solved the crime with his advanced rationality. In addition, the cellar, which lies beneath the bank, also symbolizes Sherlock’s ability to see beneath the façade of the Red-Headed League. It is only when Sherlock realizes that John Clay is spending hours in the cellar of Jabez Wilson’s house that he realizes Clay must be digging a tunnel to the cellar of the bank.
Bank Cellar Quotes in The Red-Headed League
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.