Sherlock Holmes appears to be a man ahead of his time. Accessible now in the 21st century, even though he is a detective from the Victorian Era, it seems appropriate to take some of his famous adventures and connect them to todays world, as well as use modern day tools to transform and analyze them. One way to do this is to create word clouds, which graphically highlight words that appear most in a text by making these words bigger the more often they appear. One of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes stories is The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, which tells the story of Sherlock Holmes solving the mystery of a valuable blue stone hidden in the belly of a Christmas goose. So, in order to see the story in a more graphic and visual manner, I used a word cloud.
For my word cloud I used Voyant Tools. Voyant Tools allowed me to not only view the words that appeared most frequently but to also see numerically how many times these words appeared. At first the word that came up the most was “the”, which appeared a total of 467 times! So, in order to avoid occurrences such as this where filler words appeared the most, (for obvious reasons), Voyant allowed me to eliminate these “stop words”, or the fillers, such as “the”, “and”, and “said”. This then provided me with a more helpful word cloud and let me focus on the more important words that make up the story.
The winners of the most frequent words used were “Holmes” and “man”. For obvious reasons Holmes finished with 39 uses; Sherlock being the main character and the leader of the investigation, it is appropriate that his name should appear so frequently. As for the word “man”, who showed up 39 times too, at first one would think that this is strange, why would a word like that show up so much? Isn’t it another filler? But, in a way it makes sense that it should appear as much as “Holmes” does. For much of this adventure, Mr. Holmes is looking for a man who he knows nothing about and has never met. So, Sherlock does what the famous Sherlock Holmes does best: deduce. He deduces what he can of this man and through his descriptions refers to him as “the man” or “this man”. As the mystery continues, Sherlock must discover who put the blue stone in the goose, where the goose was sold, and why this all happened, so again he must use his deduction skills to figure out who this mystery man is. He uses descriptions and refers to this mystery person as “man”. The words “hat” (27), “goose” (26), “stone” (21), and “bird” (20) are other words that appear quite frequently. The words “hat” and “goose”, though both appearing to be more fillers, are actually very important as they are what start Sherlock Holmes on this adventure. The “stone” is the blue stone found in the “bird”, the object of importance throughout The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.
Unlike Wordle, another word cloud site, Voyant did not allow me to change the font, color, or organization of the word cloud. This made creating the word cloud much easier, but also a bit frustrating when it came to making it visibly appealing. I could not change the colors so I had to trust that Voyant would choose color combinations that would be easy to read and catch people’s attention. I also had to hope that the font would be legible. With Wordle, I could have chosen a font that would be appropriate to the Sherlock Holmes time or mood, but at the same time, that could have run the risk of being illegible.
In all, Voyant served as a helpful tool and aesthetically was very pleasing. It revealed what words to look out for, as well as pointed out which words were the most important and the focus of the mystery.