Sherlock Holmes Summary

Our summary of Doyle's Action Plot helps students and fans analyze the stories.
Sherlock Holmes in Magnifying Glass

Plot Structure

Sherlock Holmes Action Plot

At first the common plot of Sherlock stories might look like all other detective stories (or other any other literature for that matter). All stories include an introduction, rising action, etc. etc.

But here is Doyle's trick. His introductions to each story include a pre-introduction. Doyle's Pre-Introductions changed everything and inducted his character into literature's hall of fame.

Before we describe how the pre-introduction is so brilliant, let's do a quick summary of the action plot:
  1. Pre-introduction - Watson describes Holmes and his practice
  2. Introduction - A client presents the details of the case
  3. Rising Action - Holmes investigates
  4. Climax - The solution of the mystery is presented
  5. Falling Action - We find out what happens to the client, the criminals, and anyone else
  6. Denouement - Holmes fills in the details Watson and the readers missed.
In Sherlock Holmes: The Unit Study readers become aware of the significance of the Pre-introduction to the action plot:

purple magnifying glass

Function of the Pre-Introduction

This was an intentional device used by Doyle and it served him and his fictitious characters well. It also increased sales and circulation for The Strand magazine as readers eagerly waited for the next story.

But it did more than that.

The short stories themselves best fit the description of popular literature. Yes, they were popular. But they didn't quite rise to the level of classic literature.

Now - add those short pre-introductions and something almost magical occurs. Sherlock moves from popular literature to classic literature.

The pre-introductions tell of the career and friendship that span three decades of a quirky, somewhat-narcisstic genius detective and the humble, helpful assistant who made him almost human.

If you took out the pre-introductions from the stories and changed the names so Sherlock and Watson weren't mentioned, you would still have 56 good detective stories. But when you add the human story of the anti-social Sherlock and the warm-hearted Watson you up the ante.

A century after the original publication, fans are still searching for insights into these two individuals and the tension/friendship between them. Now THAT is classic literature!

Detailed Summary of Sherlock Holmes Stories

Look at the parts of the action plot in more detail. Writing a paper on one or more stories? You can show how Doyle altered the details of one particular story from the general plot template he used.

Sherlock Holmes in Magnifying Glass

Sherlock Holmes Projects

Writing Ideas for Sherlock Holmes Reports

1. Read three different short stories. Notice the differences in the plot formation (see Summary above.) Write an analysis of how they are the same or different.

2. Develop this thesis statement: The characters of Sherlock Holmes and/or Dr. Watson actually represent Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

3. Point of View: The Sherlock Holmes tales are excellent examples of the first person point of view. 54 of the short stories and all 4 longer mysteries were supposedly written by Watson. This is a prominent example of the narrator not being the main character. What is the literary value of the character, Watson? How would the stories have been different if they were written by Sherlock?

4. Use one of the Sherlock Holmes Quotes and develop your paper around it. Tell how this quote describes the detective and his work in a particular short story.

5. Try to write a detective story yourself. First, imagine the crime and reason for it. Second, develop the crime scene that is left at the end. Three, little by little have the clues found and the mystery solved. It maybe a little trickier than you think!

6. Sherlock Holmes stories take place in Victorian England. So did Charles Dickens stories. Write a short narrative of two characters meeting. Perhaps Sherlock could solve a mystery for old Scrooge himself.

7. Do a character anaylsis of Sherlock. Read a few stories, list the character qualities you discern, and develop a description and example of each. Here is an example of how to do a character sketch.

Finally, our Sherlock Holmes Unit Study will lead you through an indepth analysis of eight of the most popular stories. It includes background information, comprehension questions, hands-on activities, vocabulary words, and more.

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Sherlock Holmes Worksheet Sherlock Holmes Teachers Key
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Sherlock Holmes Pages

A catalog of our pages on Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock: The Unit Study Sherlock Holmes Unit Study
8 popular stories for Middle or High School
The Speckled Band Speckled Band
Compelling mystery of the whistle in the night
Silver Blaze
Who, where, and why of a dead man and missing horse
The Red Headed League Red Headed League
A silly-looking prank masking an international crime
The Engineer's Thumb Engineers Thumb
Is this one of Doyle's best - or worst - stories?
Crooked Man
Crooked Man
A truly crooked man in a twisted tale of betrayal
in Bohemia
Scandal in Bohemia
Multiple scandals in this drama of love gone wrong
The Dancing Men Dancing Men
Irony of honor in one of his saddest cases
The Final
Final Problem
Doyle's daring decision and the outcry that followed
More About Sherlock Consulting Detective
Interesting tidbits about the world's only consulting detective
More About Dr. Watson Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes
There's more to Dr. Watson than readers first see
Super Hero Prototypes Holmes and Watson: Superheroes prototypes
Are Holmes and Watson the super hero protypes?
List of All Short Stories List of Sherlock Holmes Short Stories
List of stories and longer books
Sherlock Holmes Quotes
Famous quotes, brilliant sayings, and intriguing insights
Action Plot Summary Summary of Sherlock Action Plot
The unique action plot made Sherlock stories a classic.
Who Is the Best
Sherlock Actor?

Sherlock Holmes best actors
If you want to watch, find who portrayed him the best.
Kids and

Sherlock stories for kids
Most appropriate Sherlock stories for kids
What makes Sherlock #1 Sherlock Holmes popularity
Why is he fiction's most popular character?
What about women?
Sherlock Holmes and Women
An armchair quarterback in the battle of the sexes

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