A Study in Sherlock: Our Fascination with Pathological Narcissism and the Narcissistic Personality

By: Barbara Rumain

Abstract: This paper argues that it is Sherlock Holmes’ characterization as a Narcissistic Personality which is largely responsible for his immense popularity. It maintains that Watson serves two functions: One function is that of being a constant source of narcissistic supply and the other is to mitigate and counteract what would otherwise be the negative effect of Holmes’ narcissistic qualities. The paper uses close readings of the text to establish Holmes meets the criteria for a Narcissistic Personality. It also considers how Conan Doyle, based on the era in which he grew up and his own experiences of attending boarding school, knew to give such an accurate portrayal of pathological narcissism.