Is The Case Of Sarah Chapman In ‘Enola Holmes 2’ Based On A True Story?


“Enola Holmes 2” is not entirely based on a true story, though there are segments of the narrative that are inspired by real-life events. The character of Sarah Chapman is based on a real person of the same name, but creative liberties have been taken by Harry Bradbeer and Jack Thorne (co-writers) to weave it into a fictionalized screenplay. Sometimes we get soaked in greed so much that we forget to think beyond ourselves. We forget that no wealth in this world is equivalent to the precious life of an innocent soul. I personally do not know how people live without any regret or grief, after they know that they are responsible for subjecting another human to such pain and suffering.  There is no limit to the kind of callousness that a human is capable of. They are insolent enough to look into the eyes of their victims, even after knowing that they are the ones who were responsible for their miserable condition. History remembers only a few prominent names, though if you look carefully, you will find a list of such oppressors who existed in each and every corner of the world in every generation. It is said that the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression by the immoral but the silence over it by those who consider themselves righteous and incorruptible.

In the film “Enola Holmes 2,” Sarah Chapman knew that, and that is why she started plotting a plan to expose the lies and deceit of the matchbox factory in front of the whole world. In reality, the protests by the girls working in the matchbox factory were due to several reasons. After being oppressed for generations, the girls realized that if they did not stand up for themselves then maybe their voices would be left unheard forever. Though the name of the factory is not used in the film, the protest of 1888 was against the Bryant and May match factory. The labor laws at that time were inept at providing good working conditions for factory laborers. They were made to work for more than 14 hours and had little or no remuneration for the same. The laborers would have survived in that situation too, if other things had been right. But it was not so. England was far from being a welfare state. Even after putting their heart and soul into their work, the daily laborers were given very low wages. Additionally, there were a lot of punitive taxes applied to the already meager income. It was said that the Bryant and May match factory had a sweating system in place as the workers were not covered under the Factory Acts at that time. In the film too, it is shown that William Lyon wants to meet Tewkesbury, as he wants him to raise the issue in the House of Lords and bring about a reform in the factory laws. In a sweating system, the workers are made to work in deplorable circumstances. Basic human rights are also grossly violated in such a system. There is no minimum wage; there is no payment for working overtime; and generally, child labor is encouraged so that further cost-cutting can be done.

As if all these hardships were not enough, the company decided to use white phosphorus for making the matchsticks. There were a lot of adverse implications for doing so. A lot of workers started having a disease known as the Phossy Jaw. It was a condition where the jaw of a person looked disfigured, and there was a swelling that was distinctly visible from the outside. It was caused by the white phosphorus that was rampantly used in all the matchmaking factories. In the film “Enola Holmes 2,” we see that when Bessie took Enola to the factory for the very first time, there was a girl who was not allowed to enter the factory as she was suffering from the same disease. A lot of girls lost their lives too, and Sarah Chapman, among others, felt compelled to unite the girls and launch a protest against the capitalist oppressors. Eminent personalities like Annie Besant also became involved in the movement, and that’s when it became an issue of national importance. Though the film uses the same premise, it takes creative liberties to add more fictional layers to the character of Chapman and builds onto the suspense and drama.

In the film, we see that Sarah knew that if she didn’t raise her voice, then the future of the next generation would also be doomed. Sarah and William Lyon risked their lives and collected evidence to prove that Henry Lyon, Charles McIntyre, and others were involved in corrupt practices. Sarah lost William in the film, but she still kept fighting and made sure that the voices of the women workers were heard by the establishment and immediate action was taken upon it.

When Sarah Chapman was denied the right to live by her oppressors, she had no choice but to become an outlaw. Sarah realized that freedom is never given voluntarily. Whether it is a tyrant or any other organization that deprives a person of their basic human rights, they try to maintain the “status quo” because it is beneficial for them. They fear change. They fear people who have the potential to unabashedly voice their opinions. The world remembers Sarah Chapman for the change she was able to bring. We remember her for the impact she had on the lives of those hundreds of workers. We remember her for her magnanimity and kindness. “Enola Holmes 2” pays tribute to Sarah Chapman and makes the current generation privy to the sacrifices she made and the efforts she put in just so that she, and others like her could have a life that we often take for granted.

See More: ‘Enola Holmes 2’ Ending, Explained: Who Was Moriarty? What Does The End Credit Scene Mean?

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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