The Red-Headed League

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Themes and Colors
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Red-Headed League, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Bizarre vs. The Mundane

Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Red-Headed League” is characterized by bizarre imagery. The concept of the titular Red-Headed League itself is utterly bizarre: it is not often that secret societies full of red-headed men are formed in London, or that someone is hired for a job purely because his hair is redder than that of hundreds of other applicants. The point of this story, however, is that the bizarre is often not as bizarre as it…

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Logic and Rationalism

Arthur Conan Doyle was a firm believer in a rationalism. He was a doctor by trade and was therefore well-versed in the scientific method (a highly-rational approach to assessing facts), which he loosely applies to the practice of solving crimes. Furthermore, late-nineteenth-century London was gripped by high-profile crimes, such as the Jack the Ripper murders, and the police force was often dismissed for being ineffective at stopping or catching criminals. Conan Doyle therefore takes fire…

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Appearances vs. Reality

Things are very rarely as they first appear in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Red-Headed League.” The Red-Headed League itself is an elaborate front for a bank robbery. In addition, the appearances of characters can also be very misleading, for example John Clay, who appears to be a respectable young man, turns out to be a famous criminal. Throughout the story, Conan Doyle reminds the reader not to take appearances at face value. If Sherlock

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Greed

In “The Red-Headed League,” characters who are greedy are eventually punished for their actions, whereas selfless characters (such as Sherlock Holmes) are rewarded. The criminals John Clay (also known as Vincent Spaulding) and Archie (also known as Duncan Ross) try to rob a bank and are punished for this greed through their arrest. Even Jabez Wilson, the innocent victim of their crime, is punished for his greed—after all, his decision to take…

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