The Adventure of the Yellow Face Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Adventure of the Yellow Face Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Pipe

The pipe is found by Holmes as he and Watson return from their walk. Holmes derives a great deal of deductions from it, including mental, physical and financial makeup. But when the owner of the pipe comes to meet him, he never sought to confirm it. In fact, he doesn’t even ask if the pipe belongs to Munro. It is also a matter of interest, that the pipe which Holmes claims is of great value to Munro, is never enquired about by Munro, which could be due to his agitated state but the reader gets an idea that Sherlock Holmes is so confident is in his skill that he doesn’t bothers to confirm his theories. Just as the pipe is not mentioned again, and he maintains his unconfirmed theories about the pipe, Holmes’ theory about the Yellow Face is one that is overly-simplistic and yet he is comfortable with it as he is with his surmise about the pipe.

The Yellow Face

The Yellow Face is described as unnatural, ugly and of having a livid color. Such is the disgust of Mr. Munro that he repeatedly calls the person with the yellow face as a ‘creature’. This signifies the society’s judgement towards people of color. The mask is a symbol for judgement. The treatment of the story towards people of color was very advanced for the society during the time when it was published. The story defines racism as an unnatural, ugly thing that leads a person to see other person as a ‘creature’. Effie’s attempt for secrecy about her daughter’s identity represents the inhibitions society feel about people of color. Munro’s acceptance of Lucy as his own daughter represents the change in society about racism.

Outdoor Walks

Walking was a much much-preferred past-time in nineteenth century England. But, Holmes is said to avoid any kind of physical activity. Yet, he is said to have an excellent physical strength. Watson takes evening walks often and is able to persuade Holmes only because Holmes has nothing better to do. This becomes a symbol for mental curiosity. Holmes assumes himself to be in a sufficient mental capacity that he is unable to find any cases of interest, even though he was getting cases. Watson is curious, but doesn’t has the kind of aptitude Holmes does, who can solve cases without much help. This is superimposed in Munro’s walk. He takes to walking just to observe the Yellow Face, but is unable to satisfy his curiosity.

Cottage Interior

The cottage interior as described by Munro is said to have some sparse furniture of ‘most common and vulgar description’, except that of Effie’s daughter. This could be analyzed as Effie’s practical design to keep everything as minimal as possible to avoid higher expenses and still to keep her daughter comfortable. But, this also represents her state. She is a woman who has no qualms about society’s inhibitions against people of color. She makes no effort for the interiors of the house except for her daughter’s room which she makes ‘comfortable and elegant’. She is not out to impress the society, as much is clear from the arrangement of the furniture. However, she agrees devises for the use of mask so as not to attract the people around and thus, her husband. The pretense is meant for her husband only.


Photographs are repeating motifs in the story. In the nineteenth century, photographs were rare and were treated as reverence to a person. Effie’s photograph in the cottage proved enough evidence for Munro to associate the presence of the Yellow Face with Effie. It was not just the photograph, but its placement on the mantle-piece too, which led Munro and finally, Sherlock to believe that the person residing in the cottage had some sort of relationship with Effie. In Effie’s locket, a portrait of her first husband resides. She claims that all her papers were destroyed in a fire, which is understood as a convenient lie to hide her husband’s identity. But, she still has a place of reverence for him in her mind for which she keeps his portrait inside her locket hidden from everyone.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.