Jungian archetpal analysis of Sherlock Holmes

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Jungian archetpal analysis of Sherlock Holmes

Post  Chelsea Norgrove on Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:16 pm

By-Chelsea Norgrove

Throughout the multiple tales of Sherlock Holmes that have been either televised or been shown in movie theatres, there has been a very heavy influence from Jung and his archetypal theory. In this telling of the classic tale of Sherlock Holmes and his alliance with Dr. John Watson, they are faced with the rebirth of their enemy Lord Blackwood who has come back to London during the late 19th century to terries and destroy the House of Lords in Parliament premeditated with the fact that he was dismissed from the House of Lords on the basis of his dark magic tendencies. From the central hub of 221B Baker St, Holmes and Watson, solve the mysterious dealings involving the infamous Lord Blackwood. Throughout Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tale, Holmes and Watson along with Holmes’ muse Irene Adler each experience their fair share of character archetypes from the temptress to the hero to the mentor/scapegoat. As well as experiencing the previous, all three of them including Lord Blackwood are involved with the all-encompassing situational archetype of the battle between good and evil, being the dominant archetype throughout the movie. The fall as well as the task, death and rebirth and nature vs. mechanistic world were woven into the screenplay as the dominant symbolic archetypes that are seen throughout the film.
Although throughout the film other aspects of different symbolic archetypes are seen such as light vs. darkness, the dominant archetype throughout not only this film but any detective or murder mystery novel, there is a constant battle between good and evil. This archetype embodies the idea of two primal forces that are in constant opposition causing conflict and possibly destruction of whatever is around them. This is seen through the multiple attempts at capturing Lord Blackwood and his other rivals in order to restore peace and happiness to the city. Even though there isn’t a very distinct difference between the good side involving Holmes and Watson and the evil side composed of Lord Blackwood and the other more radical members of the Order, there is a definite difference seen through their actions and how they compose themselves during feuds between the two opposing sides. There is also another battle between good and evil but this one could and would be considered an internal battle between Holmes and Watson. Although they are on the same proverbial side as one would call it, they still have very different personalities and ways of approaching situations. Watson, being the analytical and very logical minded man while Holmes on the other hand being the rash and very “in the moment” mined man. These two very polar personalities cause both a deep connection and repulsion from one and other but their connections overcome almost all issues that arise between the duo during pursuit and any other act that the two perform together throughout the film.
Throughout this film, there are many characters that allow the viewer to envelope themselves in the wonderfully mysterious world of Sherlock Holmes. Characters such as Irene Adler, Lord Blackwood, Dr. John Watson and of course Sherlock Holmes bring to life the streets of London during the late 19th century.
As the pivotal character who without there would have been no novels or films, Sherlock Holmes has one of the most interesting Jungian character archetypes of all the characters in the film. By the guidelines set forth in the symbolic archetype of the battle between good and evil, Sherlock Holmes should be the Hero since in the general plot of the film, Lord Blackwood is the villain but Holmes is definitely not the “typical” hero by any means. Holmes exhibits both light and dark elements while trying to capture Lord Blackwood. This can be seen through the fact that as a typical hero, he saves the day by stopping “the machine” from performing its rightful duties preventing the deaths of all the members of Parliament. But on the flip side, although he as seen throughout the city and the police department as a hero, he has the tendency to solve his cases though a dark and evil path that could make one question his ways. This can be seen through what Inspector Lestrade says to Holmes due to his dark and cynical ways, “You know, in another life, you’d have made an excellent criminal.”
As Sherlock’s muse, Irene Adler would be considered as the temptress throughout this film due to the fact that usually the temptress is born with astounding beauty that the protagonist is physically attracted to and she usually brings him to his downfall. Everything apart from bringing Holmes to his downfall is true about the character of Irene Adler and as the film progresses; she becomes more of a prominent part of the storyline and ends up helping Holmes in capturing Blackwood and saving the members of Parliament.
On the other hand, Lord Blackwood almost fits the perfect archetype of being the devil figure. Although he doesn’t exchange anything with the protagonist in order to possess his soul but throughout the film, Blackwood makes several references towards the devil and symbolic items usually associated with the devil such as serpents and burning another’s soul. There is also the fact that he ends up “rising from the dead” leading the audience to believe that he is not bound to the earth and is something or someone more than human. This is not the only archetype that Lord Blackwood personifies throughout the film. Blackwood also can be seen through the audience’s eyes as the outcast due to how he was pushed out of the only organization for community that he ever belonged to being the Order because of how he was directing the Order in a new direction that wasn’t common and wasn’t accepted among the other respective members of the Order. Although Blackwood is the more recognized antagonist throughout this film, the underlying antagonist for this film and the one following is the character of Professor James Moriarty who gave Irene Adler a reason to enter into the film and gave her a purpose to stay.
There are many situational archetypes throughout this film including the magic weapon, nature vs. mechanistic world, death and rebirth and the fall. These archetypes add to both the plot of the film and they add to the progression of the character relations to one and other. The magic weapon makes reference to the root of Blackwood’s evil for the entirety of the film until the end when it becomes clear that through science that is how he survived the hanging and killing all of those people without using the dark arts in any true sense. Usually the magic weapon is in connection to the protagonist but throughout the film, the connection to magic is through Lord Blackwood. Another archetype seen throughout the film is the idea of nature vs. mechanistic world. This references the battle between the good guys using what is known and common to them, meaning their nature while Lord Blackwood is using more tactful solutions through the use of a machine whose sole purpose it is to cause death. Another archetype found in the 2009 rendition of the classic tale is the idea of a character’s decent from a higher being to a lower being. This can be seen through how before Lord Blackwood had been removed from the House of Lords, everything including his life was good but once his true background was seen by the other members of the House of Lords he was removed due to this reason which premeditated his urge to kill. This can also be seen through both his first and final hanging in the film in which the final hanging is the final decent into hell since he dies during that fall. The final situational archetype that I saw was the idea of death and rebirth. Death and rebirth cannot be referenced to anything where one would have to think thoughtfully before realizing that one specific archetype is there since this archetype is very literal and straightforward. Death and rebirth can clearly be seen through the first hanging of Lord Blackwood and how although he deceived everyone, in my mind I still find that the death and rebirth of someone in which he or she can restart their life.
As stated in my introduction, there are many sub-dominant archetypes for every situational, symbolic and character archetype based throughout the entire novel series and film series of the Holmes and Watson duo and through these archetypes set forth by Jung, one can rationally think about any media may it be a film or a T.V. series and think about how the characters are truly woven together and how any media is a reflection on current society even if it is based off of a novel.


Chelsea Norgrove

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