The Empty House, By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The purpose of this project is to assess whether Sherlock Holmes, the protagonist in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, has Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASP). Antisocial Personality Disorder is a personality disorder characterized by impairments in personality functioning, along with the presence of multiple pathological personality traits. Many aspects of Sherlock Holmes’ personality and behavior are indicative of ASP. In order to demonstrate this, I used the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to relate specific ASP criteria to situations and characterization of Holmes throughout Doyle’s works. Specifically, I related DSM criteria to quotations from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet,”…show more content…
Lastly, the impairments cannot be attributed to the individual’s developmental or sociocultural context, and they cannot be caused by drug use. Due to the extensive nature of these DSM criteria, however, I used only three aspects of the diagnostic list to assess Holmes. The complete list of diagnostic criteria for ASP can be found in the Appendix (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Throughout many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, Holmes exhibits an impairment in empathy. In the DSM, an impairment in empathy is classified as an impairment in interpersonal functioning. It is defined as a “lack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others; lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Essentially, impairment in this area is characterized by a person’s general disregard for others’ feelings or suffering. In Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet”, we learn that Holmes has an impairment in empathy. Stamford, who is describing Holmes to John Watson, says that Holmes “[beats] the subjects in the dissecting room with a stick… to verify how far bruises may be produced after death” (Doyle 1887/1986). Although the subjects that Holmes is mutilating are corpses, this behavior does show a lack of empathy. Holmes shows an utter disregard for these corpses – who were alive and well, at a point – by mutilating them and beating them. Although he does this
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