“The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”

When thinking about literature, we have to take note where the piece came from. Each country has it’s own dialect of a language that, even if not noticeable in speaking, has difference when written by its style, flow, and patterns. “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle originated in Britain, so we should compare it to other British pieces. The most popular British author that most students come across in their studies is William Shakespeare. When juxtaposed, there are many differences in the writing styles of Doyle and Shakespeare. Since most American students are brought up with Shakespeare all throughout middle and high school, there are certain expectations whenever someone talks about “British literature”.

First and foremost, Shakespeare’s novels, such as Othello, are all written in an older version of the English language than “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”. Even though this shift doesn’t affect the sematic of the story much, for its mostly aesthetic, there is a certain expectation for all of British literature to follow the paradigm set by Shakespeare and his novels. It is true that old languages everywhere evolve into the more modern version of themselves and no one expects books to stay stuck in the 1600’s, but since Shakespeare is so heavily taught in the United States as British literature and rarely shares a stage with the other authors, we have come to expect for all of them to follow suit due to years of priming at a young age.

Another major difference is how the literature is told. From Shakespeare (and most other literature everywhere), we expect most literatures to carry some sort of meaning at the end, either as a message that it’s trying to convey to the audience or as social commentary towards some aspect of society. However, Sir Arthur Conan’s novels seem to be purely narratives with no greater meaning. After I finished I asked myself, “So what? What was the point of the novel?” Yes, it was entertaining to read. Yes, the story was dense and carried a lot of brain provoking thoughts at times. However, it seemed meaningless and rather vapid at the end.

Even though “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not what I expected, it is by no means poor literature. That is exactly the point of being at a learning institution, though. If we are always given the expect, there is no room for growth.


One thought on ““The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”

  1. Excellent job of categorizing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Cardboard Box” into British literature and discussing the expectations of the story from the standpoint of British literature. I agree with you that we cannot form our expectations or reactions to the story based upon its style of language as language changes with time, yet most American students still seem to expect a more Shakespearean style to British literature. Basically, most Americans have formed a stereotype of British literature. However, I disagree that the story does not contain meaning. I think the meaning is simply implied. In my opinion, as indicated by the actions of Sherlock Holmes, the meaning of the story could be attention to minute or seemingly irrelevant details are more important to solving crimes or drawing conclusions. The meaning of the story could also be misery leading to violence only leads to more misery as indicated by the cause of the murderer’s actions and his subsequent remorse.


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