The Adventure of the Yellow Face Themes

The Adventure of the Yellow Face Themes


The theme of prejudice fills the few pages of “The Adventure of the Yellow Face”. Almost every major character displays prejudice in some form or another in this story. More poignant than any prejudice shown is perhaps the fear of prejudice, or more specifically, racism. At the end of the story, it is revealed that Effie hid her African American daughter away out of fear of prejudice from both the community and her husband. The irony, cleverly pointed out by Doyle, is that by assuming the worst of her husband, Effie is in fact expressing prejudice herself. This point is driven home by Grant’s statement: “I am not a very good man, Effie, but I think I am a better one than you have given me credit for being.”

Grant shows some traces of prejudice, believing, without necessarily saying so, that his wife is concealing some dark secret, and is perhaps engaged in something dishonorable. Before charging into the strange house, against his wife’s wishes, Grant exclaims “I’ve trusted you for long enough!”

Holmes himself exhibits an entirely different form of prejudice which could almost go unnoticed. “Prejudice” is defined partly as a “preconceived opinion.” Holmes exhibits this attitude in “The Yellow Face”, jumping to conclusions before verifying facts.

Hiding from Reality

The theme of hiding from reality, or more specifically “masking” reality is prevalent in “The Adventure of the Yellow Face.” The illusion that we can rid ourselves of problems by hiding them is seeped into our humanity. Effie Munro exhibits this delusion both figuratively and literally by covering up Lucy’s dark face with a mask. The fallacy of her plan is of course that because of the mask’s unnatural appearance, it attracts rather than detracts attention. Effie also attempts to conceal the truth from her husband by appearing cheerful and carefree despite her tension. In this way she hides her true emotions in an effort to avoid inevitable conflict.

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