Dr John Watson

Watson

The story is written in the first person, with Dr John Watson as narrator. He has lived with Sherlock Holmes for several years, during which time he has witnessed his companion at work on numerous difficult cases.

He is loyal and at the start of the novel, is concerned for his friend's well-being. He accompanies Holmes into potentially dangerous situations, and seems to take pleasure from the adventures he is led into.

When he first meets Miss Mary Morstan, Watson is struck by how attractive she is. Their growing love story is a sub-plot of the novel. A complication in the development of their romance comes in the form of the Agra treasure and Miss Morstan's entitlement to it. Watson is wary of being perceived as 'a mere vulgar fortune-seeker'. In the end, when the treasure has been lost, he feels able, at last, to declare his love.

How is Watson like this?EvidenceAnalysis
AdmiringWatson openly admits his admiration for his companion, Sherlock Holmes."I assure you, Holmes, that I marvel at the means by which you obtain your results in this case."He makes no effort to disguise his wonder at Holmes' capacity for solving this mystery and is undaunted by Holmes' patronising response that it is 'simplicity itself'.
HonourableWhen Watson falls in love with Mary Morstan he worries that her inheritance will come between them.Worse still, she was rich.He is concerned that any romantic advances that he might make will be seen as 'fortune-seeking'. He is also worried about taking advantage of her emotional state.
RomanticHolmes accuses Watson of taking a fanciful approach to detection in his writing of 'A Study in Scarlet'."You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism."The characters are very different in their response to Holmes' detection work. Watson sees romance where Holmes observes cold facts.
LoyalWatson is committed to Holmes and follows him into a range of potentially dangerous situations.I lost my bearings, and knew nothing, save that we seemed to be going a very long way. Sherlock Holmes was never at fault...Watson places his trust in Holmes entirely and has such loyalty that he sticks with his friend, even when he has lost track of his own whereabouts.

Social and historical context

Dr Watson belongs to the new middle classes of Victorian Britain. He is 'an army surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker banking account'. It was not impossible for the different classes to mix, but social conventions at the time disapproved of people forming romantic connections with those of a different social class.

We see the effects of this when Watson first meets Miss Morstan. He is attracted to her, but is certain that their unequal social, and particularly financial, statuses will stand in the way of a future for them together.

Analysing the evidence

quote
I endeavoured to cheer and amuse her by reminiscences of my adventures in Afghanistan; but, to tell the truth, I was myself so excited at our situation and so curious as to our destination that my stories were slightly involved. To this day she declares that I told her one moving anecdote as to how a musket looked into my tent at the dead of night, and how I fired a double-barrelled tiger cub at it.
Question

What does Conan Doyle show about Watson's character in this extract?

How to analyse the quote:

'I endeavoured to cheer and amuse her by reminiscences of my adventures in Afghanistan; but, to tell the truth, I was myself so excited at our situation and so curious as to our destination that my stories were slightly involved. To this day she declares that I told her one moving anecdote as to how a musket looked into my tent at the dead of night, and how I fired a double-barrelled tiger cub at it.'

  • 'to tell the truth' - this colloquial language seems to draw the reader into Watson's confidence. He is presented as an open and honest character who admits his excitement and is slightly self-deprecating in his humour.
  • 'To this day she declares' - the phrase 'To this day' lets the reader know that Watson and Miss Morstan will at least remain in contact after the events of the novel. The retelling of an anecdote suggests a closeness and the reader might deduce that they will be married.
  • 'I fired a double-barrelled tiger cub at it' - the reader learns that Watson has had adventures of his own overseas. His tension is also apparent as Miss Morstan reports that he mixed up his words in the telling of his story.