Sherlock’s All Seeing Eyes

D.A. Miller defines the panopticon in The Novel and The Police as “a circular prison disposed about a central watchtower…” in which “… surveillance is exercised on fully visible “prisoners” by unseen “guards “”. The quotations added by Miller state the fact that the panopticon does not necessarily exist only within a prison setting. It can also exist through people, one of those people being Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes is a detective, or as Watson calls an “amateur bloodhound”. He is able to accurately make assumptions about people based on the smallest things. He correctly declared that someone was a retired marine sergeant from his tattoo, beard, and the air in which he walked. No one is safe from Sherlock’s profound abilities of deduction. Just one look at a person and he can accurately guess a person’s deepest secret, or so it feels. Sherlock becomes the panopticon in this sense. If you know about his abilities, you will always be on edge that he is watching you and, therefore, you are always watching yourself. But in the end, it does not matter, because however careful you are, Holmes will still find out information because that information “is most characteristically exercised on “little things “”. 

This becomes most apparent with the retired marine sergeant. The tattoo of an anchor is the most visible marker that Sherlock sees but that only tells him of a previous profession that was on the seas. The two “little things” as Miller calls them, are his beard and the way in which he walks. If the sergeant were to cover up his tattoo, Holmes can still deduce that he was a retired sergeant of some kind. Holmes’ version of the panopticon is the scariest because it is invisible. No one can know when he is judging you and you never know if your small ticks or visible differences will be under his scrutiny.


Works Cited:

Doyle, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet. Penguin Books. 1887.

Miller, D.A. The Novel and the Police. University of California Press. 1988.


Great Expectations is a Romantic Comedy

Could Great Expectations by Charles Dickens be considered a romantic comedy? There are many people who have interpreted the novel as a romance novel, but it is never clearly defined to be one. If we were to follow some of the rules of a romantic comedy, Great Expectations could be considered one. When deciding the rules of a romantic comedy, I look to the seminal Nora Ephron classic When Harry Met Sally. The rules based off of that film are as follows; an invested interest in the two main characters’ romantic plot line, either a near break up or a complete separation when they are either still friends or in the relationship, and a grand gesture.

Readers are drawn into Pip’s story almost immediately. The first moment we meet our main character, he is in a graveyard describing how he has learned his family’s history through the gravestones of his deceased parents and siblings in stating that he learns his family’s “name on authority of [my father’s] tombstone…” (Dickens 3). This part of the novel does two things in favor of Great Expectations being a romantic comedy. First, it adds an air of mystery and intrigue surrounding Pip. Why does he spend so much time in a graveyard? What happened to the rest of his family? These are questions that we never get answered, but it is not necessary for them to be. Their only job is to draw the reader in. Second, it’s comedic. What child learns his family history from gravestones? It gives us as readers something to laugh at. As for Estella, she is more of a mystery. We have no clue who her family is and how she came to live with the eccentric Miss. Havisham until much later in the novel. We as readers are curious as to how the relationship with Pip and Estella will play out and are intrigued to learn more about Estella’s unknown past and Pip’s unknown benefactor. 

The separation is more of a natural separation compared to most romantic comedies. In When Harry Met Sally, the main characters end up sleeping together and get into a verbal argument that albeit gets physical when Harry receives the most deserved slap in human history, and their relationship splits apart. In Great Expectations, Pip receives a large sum of money from a mysterious benefactor and moves to London, away from Estella, thus creating their big separation. The break in time Pip and Estella spend together is a moment that is in most romantic comedies where romantic interest is fostered in either both of the love interests, or is beginning to be reciprocated by the second love interest. 

The last major rule of a classic romantic comedy is the big romantic gesture at the end of the film or novel. In When Harry Met Sally, the gesture involves Harry running across the city of New York on New Year’s Eve to tell Sally he loves her just in time for the new year. For Pip and Estella’s big romantic climax, it is a much more subtle gesture. Pip finds Estella near the now destroyed Satis House. As they talk, they catch each other up on their lives and leave with Pip seeing “no shadow of another parting from her” (483). This gesture is small but still a heartfelt one and provides us with a happy ending to the novel.

Great Expectations is a classic novel filled with love, heartbreak, passion, and Dickens’ wacky commentary — all characteristics of a rom com. With an ending that is left open to interpretation, people have classified the novel in multiple different ways. I thoroughly believe that it is a romantic comedy. The novel hits the three big marks of a romance novel; two main love interests that draw the readers in, a split or separation between those two characters, and a big romantic gesture. Add in Dickens’ comedy, the novel becomes an early version of a romantic comedy.

*Attached are the two aforementioned scenes for context*

The iconic slap/big breakup from When Harry Met Sally

The big gesture from When Harry Met Sally

Catherine Earnshaw’s Traumatic Response

Alexander Lewis’ connection to psychology through Emily Brontë’s novel is an extremely intriguing connection. What is most interesting to me is that he is able to pick up these large connections to the character’s mental health when Wuthering Heights was written over 40 years before Freud would publish any of his research and subsequently coin the term “psychoanalysis”. One major plot point of the novel that fits into this psychological theory is when Cathy tells Nelly that she cannot remember the past seven years of her life (Brontë, 125). This suggests that Catherine experienced such a large amount of trauma during that time of her life, that in order to remain sane, her brain has now blocked it all out.

In psychology, there have been many times where a person will experience either a lot of traumatic experiences in a short period of time or one giant traumatic experience at one moment. When that happens, in some people, it has been found that your brain will cause amnesia and you will forget that traumatic experience. This is what happened to Catherine Earnshaw. This becomes evident during a fit of hysteria that Catherine is experiencing. During that fit, she confides with Nelly about those years that she seems to be missing. She tells Nelly that the last time she remembers something was when her “father was just buried, and [her] misery arose from the separation that Hindley had ordered between [her] and Heathcliff…” (Brontë, 125). Her time in Wuthering Heights after her fathers death was extremely traumatic to her.

The last words Catherine ever heard her father say were “why canst thou not always be a good lass, Cathy?” (Brontë, 43). After her fathers death, she and Heathcliff were brutally abused by Hindley. She was forced to be away from her closest friend, and due to the actions towards Heathcliff, she began to despise his differences. She watched her brother become a drunkard and almost kill his own son multiple times. So why does this matter? Even though Heathcliff is the central character to Wuthering Heights, the story would not have taken shape without Catherine Earnshaw. Her actions and reactions create this novel and her loss of memory from trauma makes one wonder what would have happened if she and Heathcliff were treated differently, how would their lives be different? It also makes us wonder if this is truly just a novel steeped in child abuse, or if this is a novel of what it was like to grow up wealthy in the country side in the early 17th century.

Post-Colonialism in Wuthering Heights

“…He’s a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man” is what Catherine Linton says about her supposed friend to her sister-in-law in Emily Brontë’s classic novel Wuthering Heights (Brontë, 103). This isn’t the first instance in the novel where the male lead, Heathcliff, is described as inhuman. Throughout the novel, Heathcliff has shown that he is a detestable person, but so have other characters. For instance, Hindley Earnshaw shares many of the same qualities as Heathcliff, but is not described in the same dehumanizing way. 

Class and racial distinctions provide an easy explanation for this phenomenon. Heathcliff eventually gains a large amount of wealth, but he doesn’t start off that way. When he is kidnapped from Liverpool, he is seen as an orphan. His parentage and ancestry is unknown. As well, he is described as having a darker complexion, implying that he is not English. Roger Luckhurst speaks on this matter in his introduction of the book Late Victorian Gothic Tales. He describes a fear of the other that plays a role in many gothic novels. Heathcliff is that other. With his unknown origin, he is seen and described as a mysterious, un-English creature. 

Catherine isn’t the only character to describe Heathcliff this way, though her words tend to be harsher than others. When he is first brought to Wuthering Heights, the entire Earnshaw family other than the father instantly dislike him. Once Mr. Earnshaw dies, he is cast out and verbally abused by Hindley. These actions are what lead to Heathcliff’s negative behavior. It is highly doubtful that he would act this way if he was treated with kindness as a child rather than contempt. The Earnshaw’s contain colonialist attitudes so much so that even though Catherine considers Heathcliff her closest friend, she continues to call him things such as “an unrefined creature” and claim that he is “without cultivation” (Brontë, 102). These beliefs are the reason Heathcliff has such a detestable personality.

The Negative Nancy of Mary Barton

In the third paragraph on page 168 of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Mary Barton, negative words are used five times, one of which was the word “never” (Gaskell, 168). These negatives are all spoken by Mr. Harry Carson and shows that he has an air of authority. He is speaking down on Jem, literally and figuratively. At the same time, he is telling a police officer, a person who is supposed to have more power than Carson, what to do. This authority leads Mr. Carson to believe that he has the ability to do as he wants. 

This interaction occurs when Jem decides that he wants to speak with Mr. Carson. The interaction goes poorly and ends with Carson hitting Jem with his cane and Jem laying in the mud with Carson physically standing over him. Carson has now forced Jem to be under him in multiple ways. Jem is a poor worker who comes from nothing. Harry Carson on the other hand comes from wealth and power. His father is the employer of George Wilson, Jem’s father, and has given Harry Carson a comfortable life. Jem is looked down upon by the rich, and Carson forces Jem to have to look up to him rather than seeing each other equally. Carson then tells Jem that he “will never forgive or forget insult” (Gaskell, 168). The insult that he is referring to was Jem speaking to Mr. Carson as if they were equals. Carson uses their class divide to separate the two men and as a defense for his attack.

Mr. Carson’s authoritative behavior does not stop there. He emphasizes the class divide between him and Jem verbally as well. Mr. Harry Carson is a part of the upper class and believes that his father’s employees should settle with the minimal pay that they receive or lose their jobs (Gaskell, 172). Carson once again has a negative viewpoint on that matter. To him, the poor should not gain more money but rather be content in their miserable lives. His higher place in the social class of Victorian England leaves him with a negative view of the lower class and with that belief of them being below him in many regards.