I had always been bugged by the idea that Sherlock Holmes was “in love” with Irene but, in the original, they weren't in love at all. In fact, Irene Adler married another man! What’s amazing about Irene is not that Sherlock’s “attracted” to her but that she’s the only woman who outsmarted him! Sherlock didn't call her “The Woman” because she was the only woman for him, it was a name he called her out of a blended feeling of respect and contempt. In fact, in the opening lines of “A Scandal in Bohemia” Watson states:
“In his [Sherlock’s] eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind”
We can see from this statement that Sherlock calling Irene “THE Woman” is merely a way for him to show respect and possibly even something akin to admiration for her brilliant mind which rivaled that of his own. Holmes always had great respect for someone who could break the barriers of cleverness and enter the realm of brilliance (whether they were friend or foe).
Why did I mention contempt? We must look at Sherlock’s character. Sherlock has a need to prove himself; he likes a challenge, but he also likes to win. There are several instances where, when someone shows a better understanding of almost anything, Sherlock seems to be a bit offended by it and I believe it would be no different with Irene.
So why do many versions of Sherlock Holmes portray Irene Adler as Sherlock’s one true love? I believe the answer lies in the history of the Sherlock Holmes stories and their original theater adaptation. In 1898, William Gillette, an American playwright, was turning the Sherlock Holmes stories into a stage play (in which Gillette himself would star as Holmes). Gillette contacted Arthur Conan Doyle and asked if he could have Sherlock Holmes get married in the play. Doyle famously replied “You may marry or murder or do what you like with him!” Gillette did decide to have Holmes get married in the play and fashioned a wife (named Alice Faulkner) for Sherlock that he modeled after Irene Adler in “A Scandal in Bohemia”.
After seeing Irene Adler in both lights, first as Sherlock’s “One true love” and now as her original self, I must admit that I prefer the original Irene Adler to any of her “alter egos” such as Alice Faulkner (Sherlock Holmes, the play), The Woman (Sherlock, BBC), Adler/Moriarty (Elementary, CBS), etc.
But that’s just my opinion, I would love to know what you think!
JOIN THE DISCUSSION!! :
This was just the opinion of one fledgling Sherlockian. The only way to really settle the issues would be to ask the original author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. Sadly, we cannot do that. But I would love to know what you think!
Of all of the incarnations of Irene Adler you’ve seen, which version of Irene do YOU prefer? Do you think Sherlock was in love with Irene or is that just an addition to the original story line made over time?
The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
An Entirely New Country – Alistair Duncan
Sherlock Holmes (play) - Wikipedia