In the selected Arthur Conan Doyle stories we have read, I have noticed a theme in how Sherlock Holmes views himself in relation to the established police force. His “immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation” enable his abilities in “clearing up those mysteries which had been abandoned as hopeless by the official police,” writes Watson in A Scandal in Bohemia (11). Obviously Holmes is extremely intelligent, and we can count on him to solve the mystery, but for him there is a more important asset to possess besides mere intelligence and honed observation skills. Sherlock Holmes places great value in the powers of imagination. In The Adventure of Silver Blaze he critiques his peer when he says the following: “Inspector Gregory, to whom the case has been commissioned, is an extremely competent office. Were he but gifted with imagination he might rise to great heights in his profession” (189). It is clear that Holmes respects Inspector Gregory’s intelligence, but knows that experience combined with imagination allow for a much more skilled detective.
Holmes’ imagination comes into play in several ways. First of all, he can creatively look at cases through different angles, allowing him to reach solutions that wouldn’t be possible if he only viewed them through one lens. In The Adventure of Silver Blaze he says, “the art of the reasoner should be used rather for the sifting of details than for the acquiring of fresh evidence” (185). His “day-dreaming” allows him the power to thoroughly work through every angle of every case, thus reaching solutions (191).
Secondly, Holmes is extremely theatrical. In A Scandal in Bohemia, Watson notes his “amazing powers in the use of disguises” (17). Not only does he have skills in the art of costumes and makeup, he is also able to manipulate his own physical features, such as he does in the opium den in The Man with the Twisted Lip (82). These transformations allow him to secretly conduct research on his suspects, while causing endless amusement for his friend Watson.
If Holmes were any less creative, theatrical, and imaginative he would not be as successful as he is. It sets him apart from the established police force, and is just one of the many advantages of being an “unofficial” inspector (195).