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Sherlock Holmes, the Secret Agent, and Ideas of Justice



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Sherlock Holmes, the Secret Agent, and Ideas of Justice by Lit-Chung Chan
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This dissertation, "Sherlock Holmes, The Secret Agent, and Ideas of Justice" by Lit-chung, Chan, 陳烈忠, was obtained from The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong) and is being sold pursuant to Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License. The content of this dissertation has not been altered in any way. We have altered the formatting in order to facilitate the ease of printing and reading of the dissertation. All rights not granted by the above license are retained by the author. Abstract: 1. Abstract In this dissertation, I focus on the ideas of justice in crime or detective fiction written in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent and four stories from the Sherlock Holmes series written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will provide the loci for my investigation, with particular emphasis on 'The Abbey Grange' and 'The Dancing Men' from The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 'The Crooked Man' from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and 'The Devil's Foot' from His Last Bow. Among different stories from the Sherlock Holmes series, these four are particularly selected for a comparative study with The Secret Agent because they all share the topic of murder in the domestic sphere, where justice can be assessed and examined in four aspects: in relation to women, people as individuals, family and society at large. In other words, the ideas of justice will be investigated along the spectrum from individuality to collectivity. The site of investigation is modern literature, and I pay special attention to the theories of justice propounded by modern political philosophers such as John Rawls and Robert Nozick, in conjunction with other ideas of justice elucidated throughout history. Rawls's and Nozick's theories are closely related to each other in the way that they are not only hostile to the utilitarianism prevalent in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but also reflect modernity, demonstrating the peculiarity of modern life and thinking. This thesis asks if these modern theories of justice can help us understand Conrad and Doyle's works, though the debate about issues of justice can be traced back to ancient Greece where Plato dealt with them in The Republic and The Laws, nearly two thousand and five hundred years ago. In the end, we will see that ideas of justice permeate The Secret Agent and the Sherlock Holmes stories insomuch as justice is a virtue or a moral ideal with which different individuals can pursue their conceptions of the good in their own life, family and society, though the likelihood of justice actually being done is rather different in the work of the two authors. 1 DOI: 10.5353/th_b3164346 Subjects: Detective and mystery stories - History and criticismJustice in literature
Release date NZ
January 26th, 2017
Created by
colour illustrations
Country of Publication
United States
Open Dissertation Press
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