Gothic, Not Ideal Form in the Hound of the Baskervilles

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In this essay, I will do a close analysis of the genre The Hound of the Baskervilles belongs to and how it undermines the ideal detective novel.

Tales of mystery are classified into two types. One is the ideal detective story which is a fantasy of social order. The narrative pattern basically involves a struggle between the detective and criminal, triumph of the detective, punishment of criminal and hence a restoration of law and order in society. One would automatically classify The Hound of the Baskervilles as a novel of this genre. Yet I believe this novella to be more of the other type: the Gothic Tale. This is because it threatens the very assumptions and values of the ideal detective novel.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is built around a series of binary oppositions. One primary opposition is between the progressive present and the primitive past. Sir Henry Baskerville wanting to modernise Baskerville court "I'll have a row of electric lamps up here inside of six months" (Ch 6) is an indication of progress in the present. Instances of primitive pasts resurface in the novel and they include the manuscript (p14), the Neolithic man (p74) and the "dim line of ancestors" (p65) in Baskerville Hall. Another is the one between reason and superstition. Evidently, Holmes and Doctor Mortimer are supporters of logical science and the unexplained supernatural respectively (p27). There is the opposition between science and the imagination as well. Holmes uses logical and systematic methods of solving the case. Yet, there is the presence of the ancient curse (p15-17) which invokes gothic tradition. And of course, there is the light and dark contrast. Baker Street is associated with light and Baskerville Court with darkness "Black beams", "Smoked-dark ceilings" (p65). The presence of the opposition questions the privileged term, which are the presuppositions of an ideal detective story. In this case, science and reason become...
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