The short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” is one of the many stories that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that starred his most famous character, the master sleuth, Sherlock Holmes.
Being that it is a detective story, the type of which most of the later detective stories by lesser known writers were modeled after, the story follows the model for the stages of narrative perfectly, almost strictly. First, the narrator, Dr. Watson, gives the exposition. It is assumed, of course, that the reader is already familiar with the other Sherlock Holmes stories, his friendship with Dr. Watson, their previous adventures together, etc.
Dr. Watson starts by introducing the character of Irene Adler; he also makes a quick mention of his previous adventures with Holmes, Holmes’ own odd habits and even odder habits, and even of Watson’s marriage that was introduced in a previous Sherlock Holmes story. Next, the conflict is introduced into the story.
As with most detective stories, especially one with such an established character as Holmes, the conflict starts with the introduction of the new case to be solved.
The rising action stage, then, involves the rest of the story that led up to the climax: the explanation of the king, Holmes’ initial investigation of the Adler house, Irene’s marriage to Norton. Most of the action in the story occurs as Holmes and Watson carried out Holmes’ plan: the organized scuffle, Holmes’ entry into the house, all up to his explanation of the whole plan to Dr. Watson. In the next scene, where Holmes invited the King of Bohemia to join them in retrieving the portrait would have then, naturally, been the part that concludes the entire case.
This, however, though not exactly a false climax, was intentionally misleading. The discovery and reading of Irene Norton nee Adler’s letter is the actual climax.
This part not only gives a conclusion to the King’s case, but also explains why Sherlock Holmes, and even Watson at the beginning of the narrative, gave such an importance to Irene Adler; she was one of the very few people ever to outwit Holmes and the only woman to do so. The falling action occurs right after they read the letter, as they thought about the implications of its contents. Holmes even admired Irene so much that he asked for her portrait as his only reward, even though he knew he could have had any sum of money from the King, had he asked. Another element included in the story is foreshadowing.
The introduction that centered around Holmes’ special perception of Irene Adler above all other women made it very obvious that she was a unique character in some way. Also, Watson’s statement that “So accustomed was I to his invariable success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter into my head” hinted at Holmes’ pending rare failure.