Depiction of Racism in the Victorian Era in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Novel The Adventure of The Speckled Band

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

European racism during the Victorian Era was solely based on science, religion, class, colonial conquest and ties to slavery. British Literature during that time contained different racial, social, and moral standards compared to now. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings were not generally made for the modern era, they were meant for the consumption for people during the Victoria Era. Throughout the short story of The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle involved different representation of race such as the murder of the butler and the gypsies. Whereas Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories can be a depiction of his century, Most of the foreign characters are always perceived as a disturbance to the amicable British population.

Citizens of the Victorian era seemed to be afraid of change. In the article “Anthropology by gaslight: Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle and the anthropology of detection at the Victorian fin de siècle,” John McNabb posits, “The threat of change and social unrest in the 1830s and 1840s had to be resisted in order to maintain the sanctity of the status quo. ” (McNabb744). Europeans did not like change. They liked a structured society in which higher class were the ones taking control.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can be representing the traditional colonial view and can be intensely affected by the Victoria era, but this does make his comments justifiable. The old aristocracy were considered at that time would be the upper class and people who owned land. In the article “ Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Race, ” Henry Cunningham posits, “Victorians began to view blacks, regardless of individual accomplishments, as on a level with white factory workers who occupied one of the lowest rungs of British society.”(Cunningham 116). Overtime as the industrial revolution progressed, and the help of Fredrick Douglass citizens of the Victoria Era slowly began to somewhat view people of different races still impotent but still lower class.

In The Adventure of the Speckled band, race was a frequent problem throughout the story. The few were the beating of the Indian butler and the gypsies. Doyle staated, “he beat his native butler to death”(Doyle 970). The butler was beaten to death because of rage, the character received a heavy imprisonment in India compared to England. The character is sought to have a short temper, tall, and an intimidating man. The Victorian man can possess some of qualities of the character but most men during that time were ignorant and liked being in control.

The gypsies were considered as lower-class people. Doyle stated,“ the wandering gypsies, and he would give these vagabonds leave to encamp upon a few acres”(Doyle 971).The first suspects of the crime were the gypsies. During the Victorian era, gypsies were considered different and strange people. The gypsies were considered lower class and inferior. They do not have a definite place in society, so they are often frowned upon. This also makes them an easy target to place any mishaps which happen in the community. Sherlock Holmes suspects the gypsies are the cause of problem.

The Industrial Revolution caused population growth in England which led to over population and people of different races being discriminated. The gypsies during that time either had no jobs or worked as farmers. Gypsies did not have a steady place to stay, so when they more forced to moved when their services were no longer needed. Gypsies can be generally misconstrued, an insulted minority, oppressed, and persecuted. In the society in which they inhabit they suffer cultural, political, and economic discrimination by socialist and others.

In today’s society, the gypsies could be considered a minority. Lower class or people of different races are normally the ones accused with discrimination. The gypsies are faced with discrimination and can be a subject of misrepresentation in the society. The tropes perpetuated towards the gypsies were normally based on their ethnic backgrounds and the stigma grew.

The story, The Adventure of the Speckled Band had different issues of race and social class issues. Social class was important during that time which categorized everyone. Based on class everyone knew their place in society. Gypsies were the citizens begin discriminated against during the Victorian Era. Gypsies were considered lower class and had no definite function or purpose in society since they lived a nomadic lifestyle.


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