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How does Arthur Conan Doyle present Irene Adler in "A Scandal in Bohemia"?

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Sherlock Holmes, being a man of the highest intellect and deductive abilities, often comes across as a bit arrogant, and perhaps well he should be, for there are few others who have his powers of observation, cunning, and knowledge of human nature. This is why the character of Irene Adler makes such a profound impression on him.

From the first descriptions of Irene Adler, she seems an intriguing woman who would capture the attention of most. According to Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, she is described as an "adventuress" with "a soul of steel." In addition, he states that she is extremely beautiful and has a mind "of the most resolute of men." When Sherlock gets a first glance at her, he describes her as "a lovely woman, with a face that a man might die for."

More importantly, she displays a cunning that even Sherlock Holmes cannot help but admire. After Sherlock employs a plan and stages a false threat of fire at her home in order to get her to reveal the location of the photographs with which she is blackmailing the hereditary king of Bohemia, he goes the next day to get the desired pictures. Instead, Irene Adler has left him a letter where the photographs were supposedly stationed. In it she writes that she became suspicious of him when the false fire occurred. She ran upstairs and had her coachman follow the actions of Holmes as she changed into a male disguise. She then followed Holmes to his home to make sure she was in fact the great detective's suspect. Then, in a show of daring, she even wishes Holmes good night, tempting his powers of observation, which could possibly reveal her identity.

This ability to observe others' deceptions and employ disguises would certainly gain the admiration of Holmes, as these in fact mirror his own most powerful abilities. Her bit of daring in which she wishes him good night would also imply an arrogance and pride, which Holmes himself possesses.

The author uses Sherlock's final action as one of the greatest indicators of how the reader should view Irene Adler. When Irene reveals in her letter that she will not harass the king, the king offers Sherlock the reward of an emerald snake ring. Holmes refuses and asks instead to keep the picture of Irene she left for the king. Holmes sees her as an object of admiration and wishes to keep the picture as a reminder.

Through Irene's similarities to the great master detective, the author wishes us to view her as an individual of the highest intellect and worthy of readers' admiration as well.

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