Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series and Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon are two novels of the 19th century that leave a lasting impression to its readers. Noticeably, the most significant similarity for these novels are that they embodied what a good detective story should be. They are able to grab the reader’s attention and to keep them guessing. Only when the surprising twist in the end of the story is disclosed does one get the amazing feeling of finally understanding the plot and how everything falls into place. The novels have many similarities but they also have a number of differences. Ultimately, the weaving of the stories by their authors makes them both interesting pieces of literature.
There are very strong characters in the central characters, Sherlock Holmes and Samuel Spade. The two are both detectives by profession who have their own detective agencies. Additionally, they also have partners who work with them in solving the mysteries. There is however a difference in the relationship among the characters and their partners. Holmes thinks highly of his colleague, Dr. John H. Watson. The stories of Sherlock Holmes are all within the perspective of Dr. Watson. It is through his eyes that the reader gets a good appreciation of the brilliance of Holmes as a detective. A majority of the novels begin with the phrase “I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes” such as in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Or, it may also begin with Watson’s recollection of some other incident which stirred the curiosity of the great detective such as “On glancing over my notes of the seventy odd cases in which I have during the last eight years studied the methods of my friend Sherlock Holmes” in The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
On the other hand, the relationship of Spade and his partner, Miles Archer, is very shaky at the very least. Spade thinks of him as nothing more than a partner, and much more, he has an ongoing affair with his wife even after Archer has died. Spade’s determination to look for the killer is not because he wants to give justice to a friend’s death, he reasons, “When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and youre supposed to do something about it” (Hammett 116).
The role of police officers is a significant point in the lives of detective. After all, they are doing the job of law enforcers privately and for a fee. Holmes keeps a pleasant relationship with policemen as much as he can. Mostly, the characters do not go to the police when something occurs up until the time they are certain of the facts through the investigation of Holmes. He does think lowly of the police officers oftentimes but do not say negative things upfront. In The Red-Headed League, he talks about Inspector Peter Jones and states that “He is not a bad fellow, though an absolute imbecile in his profession. He has one positive virtue. He is as brave as a bulldog and as tenacious as a lobster if he gets his claws upon anyone” (Doyle). Spade also demeans law enforcers, but unlike Holmes, he tells it right to their face. He and Lieutenant Dundy despise each other and they do not hide it. In the end of The Maltese Falcon, when it was revealed that it was the boy who killed Archer he laughed at Dundy who suspected him, “What in hell’s the matter with your little playmate, Tom? He looks heartbroken” (Hammett 117).
The differences between the two protagonists make them more interesting. They have different styles and this also gives the reader different experiences. Sir Doyle presents a detective who is so intelligent that he notices all the minor things in a person and then he is able to determine that person’s motives and how he fits in the story. The partnership between Holmes and Watson is admirable because they bring out the best in each other. Conversely, Hammett presents a character that is real because he has flaws. He is very honest and though he is corrupt he does not hide behind any façade. His relationship with his partner Archer is strange but he did keep his word that he will find his killer and true enough he did.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. "Adventure 2: “The Red-Headed League”." .The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Lit2Go Edition. 1892. Web. 10 May 2014.
—. "Adventure 7: “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”." .The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Lit2Go Edition. 1892. Web. 11 May 2014.
—."Adventure 8: “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”." .The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Lit2Go Edition. 1892. Web. 10 May 2014.
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Vintage Books edition, 1972. Web. 10 May 2014.