In Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes uses his famous reasoning abilities to read a woman in order to solve a problem. After all, according to Holmes a woman’s emotions always give her away, making it easy for him to find Irene Adler’s hidden photograph. The apparently rational assumptions about women lead Sherlock Holmes to overconfidently use those generalizations in his reasoning to find the photograph. Theatricality is the main tool used by men in this story, and in their seemingly flawless use of a costume, they underestimate the ability of others to see through their reasoning. Though theatrical efforts are used as a result of a man’s reasoning, it is the man’s overconfidence in his use of theatricality as well as misjudgment in the reasoning of others that result in his ultimate failure, as his costume only serves to reveal the man’s true identity. As a result, the man’s emotions get the better of him, ironically similar to the way a woman’s emotions are supposed to get the better of her.
In the beginning of the story, the King of Bohemia seeks Sherlock Holmes’ help as someone else. He wears a “black vizard mask” (212) in an attempt to disguise his true identity, underestimating Holmes’ ability to see through the King’s costume. Once the King realized his theatrical effort proved useless, he “sprang from his chair, and paced up and down the room in uncontrollable agitation. Then, with a gesture of desperation, he tore the mask from his face and hurled it upon the ground” (214). Here, the King clearly lets his emotions get the better of him when his costume is discovered. His emotional outburst indicates that the event of someone figuring him out were unexpected, and not realizing that anyone would be able to read past his costume, the King not only overestimates his seemingly reasonable idea to hide behind a mask, he also overconfidently assumed no one else would be able to figure it out. It...
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