Mark Twain once said, “Great books are weighed and measured by their style and manner and not by the trimmings and shading of their grammar”. ‘The Adventure of the Cardboard Box’ by Arthur Conan Doyle published in 1892 meets our expectations about literature.
‘The Adventure of the Cardoard box’ is the 56th short story in ‘The Memories of Sherlock Holmes’ .More than a million books has been printed, translated in several languages and praised by many popular writers. But there are many other elements that makes it worthy. First, a good work of literature is timely. Usually it is an expression of and influence on the times in which it was written. Cardboard box was inspired by Henry Ward Beecher’s trial -one of the most widely reported American trials of the 19th century. In Cardboard box, the two villains :Jim Browner(legally)and Miss Sarah Cashing(morally) indulge in adultery act.
Secondly, a good work of literature is timeless. It deals with themes that touches all periods of history, societies and culture. Often the theme deal with good versus evil, love and forgiveness etc.In Cardboard box, Jim Browner confesses his crime. He is so tormented by guilt at his act that he would welcome being hanged. Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Lestrade represents the good where as Jim and Sarah represents the evil.
The character in a good literature is deep but believable. This is exemplified in this story. All the characters from Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson,Sarah to Jim Browner are believable characters. They exist in reality unlike super heroes like spiderman or superman. They are engaging, interesting and multi dimensional.
Real work of literature presents truth. Any author can develop a story so that evil appears inevitable ,lying pays off and hate or revenge are good. However, though these responses in life seem justified at times but they never pay off in the long run. In Cardboard box Sarah the real villan tries to seduce Jim Browner and when he rejects her advances, sets out to wreck out his marriage with her sister Mary. Jim the legal villan of the story wants to horrify Sarah rather than Susan because he blamed Sarah for causing the trouble that culminated in the murder of his wife Mary and her extramarital lover. Jim’s crime is paid off when he is arrested by Lestrade. Lastly the hero overcomes one major obstacle at the climax of the story so that his ultimate goal is reached and success achieved. Holmes with his presence of mind examines the parcel and is convinced that it is evidence of serious crime. The handwriting on the package and the knot in the string makes him come close to the real killer. Although Holmes finds the solution simple and asks Lestrade not to mention his name yet he reaches the goal of catching the killer and achieves success.