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Weekly Forum #7 — 5 Comments

  1. One classic definition of tragedy is the downfall of a heroic character because of a “fatal flaw,” sometimes but not always a virtue misapplied.

    That definition might well apply to Dr. Sterndale in DEVI. His sense of honor (a virtue) prevents him from pursuing the love of his life while he himself is married, no matter how unhappily. That same sense of honor leads him to do good works. A “fatal flaw” of pride leads him to show his laboratory to others, allowing the Devil’s Foot powder to be stolen. His sense of honor becomes flawed, causing him to seek revenge rather than allowing the law to execute justice.

    He’s then left without even the hope of someday being joined with his love or even returning to England. That hope has sustained him so far; now he must return to Africa without it.

    That is surely very close to classical tragedy.

  2. John Openshaw. Having lived through the horror of his uncle and father’s murder and the mounting fear caused by the warning of the pips, he too suffered the same fate, despite reaching out to Holmes for help. Imagine the terror of his last moments, venturing back out into the storm, realizing that he was being stalked and about to be murdered. Also tragedy for the Openshaw family in that Uncle Elias had already destroyed the papers sought by the KKK. And a tragedy for Holmes in that his failure to better protect his client led to John Openshaw’s murder that very evening.

  3. Jim Browner is certainly a tragic figure in CARD. He had turned his life around and was happy in his marriage; but because he did the right thing and was faithful to his wife, his evil sister-in-law started a chain of events that utterly ruined him.

  4. John Openshaw is the first to come to my mind, but what about poor little Carlo in SUSS, and Mrs. Hudson’s dog in STUD. Hudson’s dog thought that Holmes was just offering him a treat!

  5. Mrs Maria Gibson (THOR) is who I regard as the most tragic. She was deeply in love and devoted to a husband who did not love her, who abused her, and who emotionally cheated on her. Maria’s love for Mr Gibson and the pain involved with that love drove her to suicide, but she did her fatal act in the hopes of revenging herself against the woman who was conducting an emotional affair with her beloved husband.

    Yet the reason for her elaborate suicide, and all of the effort she put into the ruse, was all for naught when Sherlock Holmes revealed how she actually did it and prove Miss Dunbar’s innocence. While it is good that an innocent woman wasn’t charged for murder, I always felt sad for Maria and how she was regarded. In death, she was left to be remembered as a crazy South American wife.

    And then there are the people who wronged her: Mr Gibson, who harmed Maria because she loved him despite how he treated her, and Miss Dunbar, who regarded herself as completely innocent because there was apparently no understanding of what an “emotional affair” was at that time or how cruel that would be towards Maria.

    So I feel it is sad that those two are not only free and happy at the end of THOR, but they are also positively regarded as “a remarkable woman, and… a formidable man.” Personally, I don’t regard either as complete innocents and I always felt sorry for Maria and what drove her to her end. After all, she came up with a rather brilliant plan that only Sherlock Holmes could unravel. What a waste of a good mind and a loving heart.

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