Sherlock Holmes Summary

Our summary of Doyle's unique Action Plot Summary will help students and fans develop the perfect analysis.
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:

Function of the Pre-Introduction

purple magnifying glass

This was an intentional device used by Doyle and it served him as 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, genius, narcisstic self-appointed 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. THAT is classic literature.

Detailed Summary of Sherlock Holmes Stories

Let's look at these 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 Dr. Watson are actually representations of 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 an excellent 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, develop 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.

Buy Sherlock Holmes: The Unit Study

Sherlock Holmes Worksheet Sherlock Holmes Teachers Key
Student Guide AND Teacher's Answer Key Included
$2.99 Download - 183 pages
See below for contents of unit study

Sherlock Holmes Pages

A catalog of our pages on Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes: The Unit Study Sherlock Holmes Unit Study
Our 183 Page Unit Study
of 8 popular stories
Adventure of the Speckled Band Speckled Band
Analyze the compelling mystery of the dangerous whistle in the night in this famous who-dunn-it.
Silver Blaze
Your investigation will uncover the who, the where, and the why of a murdered man and the missing horse.
The Red Headed League Red Headed League
Evaluate how Doyle turned a silly-looking prank into a serious international crime.
Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb Engineers Thumb
Assess if this strange tale is one of Doyle's best - or worst - stories.
Crooked Man
Crooked Man
Analyze who the truly crooked man is in this twisted tale of love and betrayal.
in Bohemia
Scandal in Bohemia
Our analysis uncovers multiple scandals in this internataional drama of love gone wrong.
Adventure of the Dancing Men Dancing Men
Investigate the form and outcome of one of Sherlock's saddest cases.
The Final
Final Problem
An evaluation of 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 was more to Dr. Watson's life than the readers understood at first.
List of All Short Stories List of Sherlock Holmes Short Stories
A list of the the Sherlock Holmes short stories and books they were published in.
Sherlock Holmes Quotes
Famous quotes, brilliant sayings, and intriguing insights from Sherlock and company.
Action Plot Summary Summary of Sherlock Action Plot
See how Doyle's unique action plot made Sherlock stories a permanent feature in the halls of classic lit.
Kids and

Sherlock stories for kids
What are the most appropriate Sherlock stories for kids? Check out our recommendations.

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