Dr. House and Sherlock Holmes


Courtesy of Fox



I know there are bunch of book readers out there who think that television is the root of all evil and the thing that is damning our entire civilization. I’m not one of those people. I enjoy television.

I really enjoy it when I can take a character on television and see his or here roots in literature. Dr. Gregory House from Fox’s “House” is one such character. I believe that he was based on one of the most well known literary detectives of all time — Sherlock Holmes.

Here are some reasons why I think this.

  • They are both socially awkward. Both Gregory House and Sherlock Holmes disregard social norms when dealing with others. Dr. House does so in a much more intentional way, while Sherlock Holmes just really doesn’t care about social norms. For both of them, the standard things that people do to get along are boring and cumbersome.
  • They are both addicted to drugs. Gregory House is addicted to pain killers to keep his mind from noticing the pain in his leg. Sherlock Holmes was addicted to cocaine in order to activate his mind when nothing interesting was challenging him.
  • They both have a friend who helps them in the world. For Sherlock Holmes, of course, this was Dr. Watson. For Gregory House, this is the somewhat similarly named Dr. Wilson. Both of these people help the main character deal with society. Dr. Watson is much more hands on — he’s generally the guy who brings the gun or gets into the fight with the killer when it’s necessary. Dr. Wilson does things in a more subtle way, either bringing Dr. House back to reality or picking up after the mess that he leaves. Both Dr. Wilson and Dr. Watson were also roommates of the main characters at some time during the stories, and both help them interact with “normal” people.
  • They both live for the challenge. Both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. House come alive when confronted with a challenging mystery. Dr. House, for all his disregard of people, loves the challenge of figuring out what’s wrong with them. He only cares about those cases, and gets bored with the others. Sherlock Holmes was much the same way. He was only excited about life when the “chase was afoot” and he was working on a challenging case. When Watson tried to keep him from going back to cocaine, it was by making sure he had a challenging mystery to solve. When he didn’t, he would go into a slump.

I’m not saying Dr. House is going to start smoking a pipe or wearing a dearhunter cap anytime soon, just that the similarities are there. What other characters in television do you see based on characters from literature? Let us know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Dr. House and Sherlock Holmes

  1. Interesting! I love TV just as much as I love books too. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any character to compare but in the last episode of CSI when Grissom leaves the team, the detective he’s usually up in arms with asks him, “What’s Watson without Sherlock?”

    I think Grissom replies, “A great man on his own” (something like that) 🙂

  2. Michael

    What an interesting post! I’ll be musing over this for a while, me thinks. Funny, until you wrote about it I hadn’t connected House and Holmes as similar, but now it seems so obvious!
    Nice blog,

    Rosie of BooksAndBakes

  3. I hadn’t connected the two either, but as Rosie says, it seems obvious now. Of course, many of the characters in LOST are literary archetypes: Jack the conflicted leader, Sawyer the con man with a heart of gold, Kate the fugitive, etc.

    And to be very simplistic, House and Holmes both start with “H” and and both at least sound like a place where you live.

  4. A very pedestrian observation. In any of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, did you find him trolling for hookers! Holmes & House, simpatico. Really?

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