We here at the Literary Pubcrawl are not only tour guides and literary aficionados, we are also huge nerds. And what are nerds good for, if not overanalyzing the subject matter we hold near and dear? With that in mind, we have concocted the ultimate character test for our literary heroes— The Literature Death Match.
The rules are thus: each round, we will posit a scenario in which two literary characters must battle it out in a fight to the death, and based on their separate character merits, we determine who would win. Each character is assumed to be in their peak physical shape from their respective novels, all fights take place in a standard 25-foot by 25-foot boxing ring. Fighters may start unarmed, though if they manage to procure weaponry over the course of the battle, all the better.
It must be stated that these battles are of course hypothetical… no characters were harmed in our staging of these fights. After all, what kind of monsters would we be if we actively tried to kill Atticus Finch?
(Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
(On the Road, by Jack Kerouac)
First off, I know what you’re thinking: we are remarkably clever, and possibly over-fond of puns. But it is impossible to resist pitting Sherlock Holmes against another “Moriarty,” so here is our inaugural battle.
Now, at the outset, it seems obvious that this would be a fight that Sherlock Holmes could win. He has appeared in four novels and fifty-six short stories, matched wits with some of the most formidable foes of his day, including the KKK, the Amateur Mendicant Society, the Red-Headed League, and, of course, James Moriarty (no relation to his current opponent). The man has a superior intellect, enough to out-think almost any opponent, though he is ignorant on some practical matters, most notably not realizing that the earth revolves around the sun. These tiny blips of practical ignorance wouldn’t do him any damage on the battlefield, however. On top of that, he is well-versed in the fighting styles of singlestick, boxing, and swordplay.
Dean Moriarty, on the other hand, has a less-catalogued list of skills. Though he’s only appeared in the one novel , he is given a thorough description. We know him to be quite the con-man, so he is at least smart enough to survive by his wits, and given his intense personality he has probably gotten into more than a few bar fights, and probably talked his way out of half of them. He can park cars with blinding speed and great diligence. Like his opponent, Mr. Holmes, he is quite fond of substance abuse. Unlike his opponent Mr. Holmes, he is also quite fond of the ladies (and if the need suits him, the gentlemen), and by his own admission he is said to be an excellent lover. No ladies could be found to comment on his sexual prowess—his girlfriend Mary-Lou and his wife Camille both seem pretty well-shot of him, though Carlo Marx seems to enjoy him quite a bit.
Since Sherlock Holmes seems to have the advantage, Dean would have to employ some more subversive tactics in order to gain an upper hand over the legendary detective. Luckily, as evidenced by his exploits in On the Road, Dean can be incredibly manipulative and displays more than his share of sociopathic tendencies. Translation: he is willing to fight dirty.
With all this in mind, let the battle begin!
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Literature Death Match!
In the one corner, clocking in at 160 pounds and currently high on a mixture of alcohol, Benzedrine and cocaine, hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, we have the ultimate road-tripper himself, Mr. Dean Moriarty!
Annndd, in the opposing corner, at 180 pounds, wearing a dashing deerstalker hat coupled with red boxing shorts, from Victorian England, it is the great consulting detective himself, Mr. Sherlock Holmes!
The bell has rung, and fighters are now circling each other, seemingly trying to pick out strengths and weaknesses… this should work out reasonably well for Holmes, whose skill in deduction is second to none.
… Now this is an interesting tactic. Moriarty seems to have noticed the tracks on Holmes’ arm, and he’s pulling out of his pocket what looks to be a gram of coke, a spoon, and a needle! We sure hope that needle’s clean… He seems to be trying to convince Holmes to shrug off the fight in favor of getting high together, and I think I hear the words “seven percent solution” being bandied about. Could this fight be over before it even gets started?
But no, it seems that Holmes has shaken off this suggestion. The detective often employs singular focus when investigating a criminal case, it seems that he will be utilizing that same focus here tonight. Holmes will not be denied his victory… and Moriarty is falling back yet again, hoping to find another weakness to exploit.
Holmes has settled into a traditional English boxing stance, and seems to be waiting for Moriarty to make the first move. Moriarty throws out a right hook, expertly ducked by Holmes, and POW! Holmes has dealt the first blow, a direct punch to the face! Blood is flowing out of Moriarty’s nose. He seems to know that in terms of skill, Holmes outmatches him ten to one.
Moriarty has doubled over, giving Holmes the confidence to move in closer for a traditional blow to the kidneys. But what is this? It seems Moriarty was feigning, and used this momentary vulnerability to sucker punch Holmes in the crotch. Moriarty has brought some truly dirty fighting tactics into the ring with him! It’s an undignified move to be sure, but what else would one expect from a con-man out of the American West?
Moriarty follows up his dick punch with another punch to the face, and another! Ouch! That has to hurt. Holmes has pushed off Moriarty, bleeding profusely from a cut above his eye, and has now adopted a more defensive stance. He seems to be giving Moriarty another once-over, possibly falling back again on his legendary deductive skills.
Holmes is speaking to Moriarty, taunting him in some way or another. Can we get the mics turned up on this one?
“Your father left when you were very young, did he not? Judging by the lines on your face, the style in which you part your hair, and the prominent “I Miss Daddy” tattoo on your upper bicep, I would judge that you haven’t seen your father since you were approximately six or seven. That must have been a terrible blow.”
Dr. John Watson has stood up from his front-row spot in the audience and cried out in amazement. Moriarty seems to be lowering his arms a little, and if we look closely… yes, those are tears welling up in his eyes.
Watson is continuing to egg on Holmes, crying out repeatedly, “Finish him!” …You can see Holmes’ ego inflating from all the way back here in the press box.
It seems that Holmes has resumed his deductions yet again…
“…Furthermore, I can tell based on your stance and the extensive tension in your pelvis that you have a raging case of Chlamydia, most likely procured from a dalliance you had with a red-haired woman approximately three weeks ago. How are you holding up, Moriarty? Does it burn terribly?”
This is proving to be an excellent tactic. Moriarty is now weeping uncontrollably, and doesn’t even seem to have the energy to lift his fists in defense. As the crowd begins to boo him, he is actually starting to curl up in the fetal position.
Now strategically, this would be the perfect time for Holmes to finish off his opponent, but instead he seems to be taking this moment to revel in his own intellect. He’s stopped the match completely, walking over to Watson to explain in detail his deductions throughout the fight. Watson, as per usual, is looking on admiringly and taking extensive notes.
Frustratingly, the fight seems to sit at a standstill. While Holmes continues to wax poetic about his intellect, Moriarty is slowly trying to collect himself… he seems to have stopped crying, that’s a relief. And it seems he does have a plan to get back in fighting form—he’s taken out that gram of coke, that initial peace offering, and he’s cutting lines on the floor of the fighting ring. Holmes, his back still to him, doesn’t seem to notice a thing, though he has gone into a particularly long monologue about the polyester-rayon weave of Dean Moriarty’s boxing shorts, and how that is “bound to aggravate.”
… And Moriarty has bounced back to his feet in a cloud of white powder. It has doused his face in white splotches here and there, and he seems to be taken up by a madness.
Oh my! He has started screaming a high pitched war cry, and he’s running straight for Holmes! Holmes turns around, just in time to dodge what would have been a felling blow by Moriarty, and Moriarty bounces off the ropes and back into the ring.
Moriarty attacks with a left hook at Holmes, that one manages to connect…
Holmes dodges another hook, and deals a glancing blow to Moriarty’s shoulder…
Moriarty shakes it off, tries for a direct punch to the face…
Holmes gives a shove to Moriarty, sending the sky-high madman reeling back a few paces--
Holmes gestures to Watson, shouting for his saber. With complete understanding and speed, Watson tosses Holmes not a sword, but what seems to be a long wooden dowel rod.
… Ah! We have just been informed that this is the weapon traditionally used in the British Martial Art of Singlestick, also known as Cudgels, of which Holmes happens to be a master. This might just turn the tide of the battle.
Moriarty, seemingly not even noticing the new weapon in play, makes another crazed run at Holmes.
…And Holmes bats him about the head one—two—three times, knocking him to the ground!! Watson is roaring in support!
Holmes snaps the wooden rod in half over his leg. Finally, he seems to be giving up the traditional fighting styles.
Moriarty makes a half-hearted attempt to rise from the floor, and Holmes takes the opportunity--
AND RUNS HIM THROUGH WITH THE SHARP END OF A STICK!
Dean Moriarty, the free-wheeling king of the road himself, sinks to his knees, and begs to see his friend Sal Paradise one last time. Sal, however, is too busy, typing in the back room on an old Underwood.
Dean’s second dying wish, however, is handsomely rewarded. Somebody finds him a fifth of whiskey, and he downs the entire bottle before he finally expires, a drunken smile on his face.
We looked for Holmes to do a post-fight analysis, but he could not be bothered… instead he stayed ensconced in his chair, explaining to Watson every deductive method he employed during the battle.