In both stories the authors use very derogatory language towards women. In The Man With the Twisted Lip Conan Doyle portrays women in the typical Victorian sense, the weak and feeble damsel in distress, shown in ‘She ran forward, threw her arms around my wife’s neck and sobbed upon her shoulder’ and in Holmes wondering ‘Might I not escort her to this place (the opium den)? ‘ In Brighton Rock the book is anti-female throughout.
Rose is at first a weak, feeble young girl (although that image changes later) and the enemy of piousness, Ida, is a sacrilegious figure throughout as a strong, fighting, questioning, irreverent, independent goodtime woman. In 1938 it could have been said, due to her liking of men, independence and ‘bawdiness’ that she could have been more like a prostitute than lady. All this does not seem to look good on Greene, who seems to have somewhat of a complex himself against women… Pinkie is based on himself, do I wonder?
In the Sherlock Holmes stories it is obvious they were written in Victorian England. Conan Doyle, with his character Homes’ omniscience, is typical of the popular opinion at the time of scientists as being ‘the new God’ after Darwin’s evolutionary theories were starting to gain acceptance amongst the masses. Even more obvious is the air of demi-God immortality Holmes exudes. This is typical of opinion when the British Empire was at its height when it seemed that Great Britain had more power over the world than God did, so Englishmen must be ‘Gods’.
The characterisation in the two pieces is quite different as well. In Brighton Rock, Pinkie, the main character, has three sides to him, the vulnerable boy, as shown in ‘he had a fair, smooth skin, the faintest down,’ shows his physical boyishness ‘a face of starved intensity’ shows his thinness as vulnerability but with a dangerous mind in ‘intensity’. The dangerous psychopath with a hate of love and affinity with pain is revealed in, ‘a couple pressed against each other out of the lamplight by a wooden fence.
The sight pricked him with nausea and cruelty… he demanded some satisfaction different from theirs, habitual, brutish and short. ‘ Greene uses a pun on prick by using ‘pricked’. The psychosis is shown not in his nauseousness (that would show him to be prudish) but in his desire for cruelty to the lovers. The habitual, brutish and short pleasure could either be violence with his razor (due to his psychosis) or it could mean he wishes to relieve his sexual energies through rape. The third side of Pinkie is shown: the religious ascetic.
This is shown by his unwillingness to drink, smoke or even eat chocolates throughout the book, as shown in, ”I don’t eat chocolates’ the boy said. ‘Packet of Players? ‘ ‘I don’t smoke. ” This is Greene’s mark of Pinkie’s Catholic piousness that is one aspect of the book that makes it markedly different from anything Conan Doyle wrote. Religion is one of those ‘heavy’ subjects that one always must avoid in small talk, so one would think it would be a subject to avoid in the realms of ‘small’ literature (the crime genre) but Greene accomplishes it.
I think this is one of the things that makes Greene stand out as a great writer. A quotation that show Pinkie’s piousness is, ‘These atheists, they don’t know nothing. Of course there’s hell. Flames and damnation. ‘ Greene may be showing his own sympathies for atheists here as Pinkie’s statement that atheists are uneducated are put forward in a grammatically incorrect sentence, using a double negative (‘don’t know nothing’) making instead Pinkie look the uneducated, stupid person.
It is interesting also that Greene’s Pinkie shows no acknowledgment of Heaven, almost as though Pinkie has already, at the age of 17, decided his fate and his destination after his life has ended. Eternal pessimism and cynicism is another sign of Pinkie’s mental state. In contrast, The Man With the Twisted Lip has little character depth and avoids all ‘heavy’ subjects. I have been unable to find one reference to religion in both The Man With the Twisted Lip and The Blue Carbuncle. Conan Doyle has skirted around love, death and all other ‘heavy’ subjects.
Holmes is shown to be an actor in ‘He made a slight motion to me to approach him, and instantly, as he turned his face half round to the company once more, subsided into a doddering, loose-lipped senility. ‘ Showing his ability to assume a disguise. He is shown to be sure of his own talents, in saying, ‘I have excellent ears’. Holmes is also shown to be masterful, even domineering, in Watson’s remark, ‘Sherlock Holmes’ requests… were always… put forward with such a quiet air of mastery. ‘ Holmes is shown to be a happy man, through his ‘bursting into a hearty fit of laughter.
‘ Holmes is shown by Conan Doyle to be patronizing towards Watson in, ‘Surely your medical experience would tell you, Watson… ‘ this shows Holmes to be very confident and knowing of his own intellect and withering of those who do not share it. As you can see from these quotations, only the immediate superficial traits of Holmes’ character, as viewed by another person, are explored by Conan Doyle. This may be due to the first person narrative but in any case it means there is no depth of time or mind to Holmes’ character as there is in Pinkie’s.
In fact the exploration of Pinkie’s character goes on infinitely through time; the eternity of hell is explored. Personally, I much prefer Brighton Rock to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. I prefer the depth of description, the character development, the characters overall and the general seediness and tenseness of Greene’s Nobel prize nominated novel over the Victorian middle class serenity that exists throughout Conan Doyle’s work. Overall, it seems as though Conan Doyle’s work lacks ‘teeth’ and is not nearly as entertaining as the edginess and sordid detail of Greene’s.