But servant’s work is not too difficult for lower class women, as we see in other Doyle stories, such as Miss Mary Sutherland in “A Case of Identity.” Decent women of good families should not have to work in the house, both because fortune allows someone else to handle that work, and because these ladies have too delicate a constitution to support manual labor. Ideally, matters of income are solved by marrying a man of like social position, as Helen’s sister had intended to do, and by receiving that portion of income reserved for daughters only upon marriage. Thereby they are also excluded from the physical work lower-class women are forced to do.
An ideal stasis is identified early in this story, of the co-dependent relationship between the upper-class Victorian woman and her male counterpart. The daughter is in a relationship to her father wherein he provides for her until marriage, in the way of shelter and protection, and she in turn takes care of that home--the family’s shared shelter and protection. In the case of Miss Helen Stoner, this obligation between woman and man has been violated: she has been asked to perform beyond her role, while her father figure has decidedly performed below his. Both daughters seeks marriages to correct this imbalance. Short of those marriages, Holmes and Watson intervene to correct the social aberration of compliant daughter and insufficient father.
Why do they take such an interest in Miss Stoner? After all, we continually see Holmes’ disengaged attitude toward humanity, treating cases as studies in the human species instead of as human beings. When Helen Stoner first enters Holmes’ office, he observes and draws conclusions about her person and her dress as though she were an artifact of the case, and not an individual. “There is no vehicle which throws up mud in that way except a dog-cart, and then only when you sit on the left-hand side of the driver” (153). This classification of mud describes a generic situation, and just so all of the inferences of the case seek to make individual details fit into generic crime structures. For instance, as Helen reveals her story, Holmes immediately suspects Dr. Roylott is after the Stoner girls’ income. And yet something about Miss Stoner’s predicament is able to elicit dramatic sympathy in Holmes. Both Holmes and Watson take to Miss Stoner with paternal attentions.