On House

Why We Love Holmes and Love to Hate House

By Nick Mamatas

It should be no surprise to any careful observer that Dr. Gregory House is based on the famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. The names themselves are reminiscent of one another, with House being named, it seems, in the same way that Rex Stout’s fictional detection Nero Wolfe was. ShErlOck HOlmEs and NErO WOlfE, as John D. Clark pointed out, have names in which the O-E vowels appear in the same place1–further, Clark suggested that Stout was hinting at the possibility that Wolfe was the son of Holmes. Well, GrEgOry HOusE fits the pattern too. And, of course, what is a House but a “home”–a homophonic punnish reference to Holmes.

The episodes are littered with such hints. House, the character, is even a fan of Holmes, as we saw in “Whac-A-Mole” (3-8) in which House wrote on an envelope “The Game’s A Itchy Foot.” Like Holmes, House was nearly killed by a man named Moriarty (in the second-season finale, “No Reason” [2-24]). Like Holmes, House is a drug addict–Holmes is addicted to cocaine, and House to Vicodin. House even lives in a home with a street address 221B (as seen in “Hunting” [2-7]), the same apartment number as Holmes’s famed Baker Street address. Both have broken the law in pursuit of their goals and have what a modern psychologist might call “issues with authority.”

There are subtler connections as well. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, the narrator is a doctor named Watson, of course. What’s his first name? If you said “John,” you’re  …

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