The Adventure of the Yellow Face Literary Elements

The Adventure of the Yellow Face Literary Elements



Setting and Context

London, turn of the century

Narrator and Point of View

First person, this story is told from the perspective of Dr. Watson

Tone and Mood

mysterious, unsettled

Protagonist and Antagonist

Holmes and Watson can be seen as the protagonists, with both the circumstances and possibly a mysterious personage as the antagonist.

Major Conflict

The major conflict of this story is the mysterious actions of Grant's wife and the struggle against the unknown person or person's who seem to hold some power over her.


The climax of this story is when Holmes, Munro, and Watson break into the mysterious house and confront the yellow face.


Effie's fear that nothing but harm can come if her husband enters their neighbor's house is a foreshadowing of the rising conflict between Grant and his wife.


When Holmes and Watson arrive at Norbury, Grant points to a window of the neighboring house, reassuring them that "someone is there". This fact both Holmes and the reader have taken for granted, as it is what the whole story centers on, yet it understates the fact that the mysterious figure is "alive and well", and may still work some sort of mischief.


Grant makes several allusions to the yellow face as "unnatural" and "inhuman" as if the face does not belong to a person at all, but rather some fearsome creature with evil properties.


The yellow mask is a fitting imagery of Effie's desire to conceal her daughter from the evils of the world. To protect Lucy from the ugliness or racism, she must disguise her as ugliness itself.


The most poignant paradox is Effie's fear of racial prejudice. By assuming the worst of her husband, she exhibits the very prejudice she fears, albeit unintentionally.


There is an intentional and misleading parallel drawn between the color of the face in the window, and the disease from which Effie's former husband suffered. Munro states that the man died from yellow fever, and several sentences later describes the face as being the same color. This parallel is meant to mislead the reader into believing the face belongs to Effie's former husband.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The metonymy of this can be found in the mysterious house neighboring the Munro's. Grant comes to associate the house with the tension between himself and his wife. It is the symbol, and essentially source of the conflict. The yellow face is clearly an example of synecdoche, as Grant and the reader come to form odious and sinister impressions of the figure in the window based solely on his/her face.


Grant describes the color of the mysterious face as a "livid dead yellow", giving a lifeless color loathsome qualities.

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