The Musgrave Ritual

“The adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” is a short story writtenby Arthur Doyle. The story features a detective, Sherlock Holmes, andhis doctor friend, Doctor Watson (Ardolino 155). The story involves arecount to Watson regarding the events that take place after he isvisited by Renigald Musgrave. Musgrave comes to Holmes to help himsolve a case of the disappearance of his domestic staff. The domesticworkers are Rachel Howells and Richard Brunton. The two haddisappeared when Musgrave let Brunton go after he read a secretfamily document (the Musgrave code). Rachel Howells is the criminalin this short story, having been thought by Holmes to be responsiblefor killing Brunton, who was found days later dead in an old cellar,covered by a slab. The story involves gems and other precious stones,which were thought by Holmes to be no less than King Charles I’sgold crown. This paper is a Marxist reading of the detective fiction.


Socialclass of the victim, criminal and detective

Both the victim (Richard Brunton) and the criminal (Rachel Howells)are of the subordinate class (proletariat class). They had beenemployed and were working for Renigald Musgrave (Doyle 9). Accordingto Marx, this is the class of people who “do not own and controlany means of production” (45). This class is in a hostileengagement with the Bourgeois, who are the dominant class thatcontrol and own the means of production (McDonough and Harrison 14).Mr. Musgrave, the best description of the Bourgeois class in thestory, own the two laborers, who have nothing of their own foreconomic meant.

Underlyingcause of crime and its relations to the classes

Murder is the crime that is being investigated in the story. Thereare two possible explanations for the cause of the crime. First isthe need to have a means of production (Sills56). According to Holmes’s analysis of the crime, Bruntonhad come to learn about the treasure that was hidden in the oldcellar, but having informed his estranged lover, there was a crisisof control. Her lover, driven by her middle-class instincts, did notwant him to obtain the wealth. Secondly, The Marxist theory speaks of“the self-destructive tendencies of the middle class” (Davidoffand Hall 1783). While Mr. Brunton was eager to obtain the wealth, hebecame too careless that he asked his enemy to assist him. Thisself-destructive tendency of the middle class is therefore squarelyrelated to the crime.

Howsetting reflects conflict and tensions between the social classes

The author sets up the story’s plot to revolve around the lives ofpeople of different classes. At one end is a comfortable bourgeoisstandard, while on the other, is a struggling middle-classrepresented by Brunton and Howells. Brunton and Howells describe thecharacteristics of the social class that is struggling to make endsmeet, even going as far as committing crime. Brunton’s crime isthat he illegally obtained a family document, while Howell’s crimeis that she was involved in a theft attempt and the death of herunfaithful lover. These two representations showcase the tension andconflict between the two classes.

Marxistcritic interpretation

Most of the Marxist interpretations of works of literature were doneafter the 20th century (Pang 58 Sills 67). With thedevelopment of ideas in “The adventure of the Musgrave Ritual”,it is likely for a Marxist critic to interpret therepresentations as a depiction and glorification of the proletariat’stussle with the bourgeois towards achieving social progress. Thecriminal has been depicted to be a ruthless proletariat who does notonly want economic freedom, but also a better social position. Thisdrives her motives to commit the crime. On the other hand, thedetective, Sherlock Holmes has been depicted as the connectionbetween the proletariat and the bourgeois. Generally, the narrativedoes more of promoting social war than equating the morality of thebourgeois. This is because the proletariat are brought out as anunfriendly social class with the intention of establishing aclassless society. A classless society is one of the elements ofMarxism (Marx 83). According to Haslett, The Marxist method of isimportant in analyzing literature by “engaging a scientificanalysis of capitalism in the social system” (79).


The short story “The Adventure of the Musgrave ritual” isan excellent work of literature, which can be analyzed to evaluatethe application of the Marxist theory in the society. In the story,there are a number of characters who have been used to portray thedifferent social classes in the society, as per the Marxist theory.The criminal, victim and detective are used for this purpose. Thecriminal and the victim represent the proletariat social class, whoare in a constant struggle with the bourgeois. The purpose of theirstruggles and rebellion is to create a classless society, which theyhope will go a long way in eliminating their misfortunes. Generally,the story has been structurally crafted to demonstrate theapplication of the Marxist theory in the contemporary society.

Works Cited

Ardolino, Frank. &quotArthur ConanDoyle`s Use of Restoration History in the Musgrave Ritual.&quot&nbspANQ:A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews&nbsp24.3(2011): 154-162. Print.

Davidoff, Leonore, and CatherineHall.&nbspFamilyfortunes: Men and women of the English middle class 1780–1850.Routledge, 2013. Print

Doyle, Arthur Conan.&nbspTheAdventure of the Musgrave Ritual.Vol. 5. BompaCrazy. com, 2014. Print.

Marx, Karl.&nbspEconomicand Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.Courier Corporation, 2012. Print.

Marx, Karl.&nbspOnThe Question of Free Trade.Arsalan Ahmed, 2015. Print

McDonough, Roisin, and RachelHarrison. &quotPatriarchy and Relations of Production.&quot&nbspFeminismand materialism: Women and modes of production (2013):11-41. Print.

Pang, Laikwan. &quotThe LaborFactor In The Creative Economy A Marxist Reading.” Socialtext&nbsp27.299 (2009): 55-76. Print.

Sills, Hannah.&nbspSaussureand Sherlock, Derrida and the Detective: A Semiotic andDeconstructive Interpretation of the Classic Detective Fiction Genre.Diss. Vanderbilt University, 2014. Print.