Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Norwood Builder (Scene 3)
John McFarlane Continues His Story
Police Detective Lestrade’s comments and opinion irritate Holmes, so Holmes gets quite sarcastic and cutting with Lestrade. For example, Lestrade says, “I came on here myself to do my duty.” He strongly feels it is his responsibility to arrest John McFarlane. To this, Holmes responds, “Then you plainly must do your duty, my dear Lestrade. He’s yours.”
The idea of a murder and arson case, and the possibility that young John McFarlane is being framed (set up to make it look like he committed the crime when he didn’t) and won’t find justice if it is left up to detectives like Lestrade, grabs Holmes’ interest. That is significant as Sherlock Holmes only takes on cases that peak his interest.
Holmes assures John that he will take on the case. Although John still gets arrested by Lestrade, he has the great detective on his side.
Bumbling Police versus Skillful Detective
Sherlock Holmes is quite professional, but has no police training. What he does have are the skills of observation and deductive reasoning. With these tools, he sets himself up as a private detective. This is quite typical of classical detective stories. Later cozy detective stories explored the possibility of using other kinds of people to fill the detective role. These amateur detectives have a skill or they have personal connections to help them solve a case. Some examples of amateur detectives are news reporters or news photographers. Their natural connection to reporting on crimes brings them in contact with crime scenes, and witnesses to interview. From their real job of news reporting, they also know the chief of police, firefighters, and other key people whose expertise the reporter/detective can draw on. Other amateur detectives have been a mystery writers, a nosy neighbors with lots of time on her hands, and even someone with a strong personal interest in solving the case. Perhaps they were a friend or relative of the victim, and they see the police trying but getting nowhere, so they become personally involved.
In contrast to the resourceful, logically thinking detective are the bumbling police officers. They try hard, but lack the skill needed to successfully solve the case. Since he is willing to take on the case, it is likely that Holmes at least has a feeling that John McFarlane is innocent. But he won’t commit to this point of view. He needs facts and evidence. He enters his investigation with an open mind. He guards against jumping to conclusions. Making assumptions and jumping to conclusions is what Lestrade and his men do time and time again. And that is basically the difference between the bumbling police officers and the skillful detective.
Venture into English Study Aids
On my companion site, Venture Into English, you will find several radio plays, each with a word list, drag ‘n’ drop vocabulary game, quiz, and transcript of the play. I recommend you listen first. Then try learning the key words. Then listen again. When you’ve gotten as much as you can from listening , listen again and read along.