Made by – Afreen A. Haque XI - B
THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES BY-
SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Arthur Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland. As a young man he seemed destined for a career in medicine. In 1876 he attended the University of Edinburgh Medical School. There he met Joseph Bell, whose deductive powers and dramatic flair he would later embody in the character of Sherlock Holmes.
In the early 1880s he served as a medical officer on an Arctic whaling ship and ship’s surgeon on a voyage to West Africa. By the summer of 1882, he had settled in the town of Southsea in the south of England. In 1885 he received his medical degree. Even after he was a well-established writer, he continued to pursue his medical education, becoming an eye specialist. His medical practice was unsuccessful, leaving him plenty of free time to write.
His first story was “The Mystery of Sarassa Valley,” published in October 1879 in Chamber’s Journal. He had trouble finding a publisher for his first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, which eventually appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887. It and its successor, the novel The Sign of Four, published in 1890, were not popular at first. In 1891 Conan Doyle agreed to supply the new magazine the Strand with a series of Sherlock Holmes short stories. “A Scandal in Bohemia” appeared in the magazine’s July 1891 issue and was a popular sensation. For the rest of his life Conan Doyle was pressured by publishers and the general public to write more stories about Sherlock Holmes.
He tried to stop writing the stories a number of times. Then he tried killing Holmes off in “The Final Problem,” the last of his second run of Holmes stories for the Strand. He received hate mail for killing Holmes and was besieged by publishers offering him huge sums of money to write more about Holmes. An American publisher finally offered more money than Conan Doyle could resist, and he agree to write The Hound of the Baskervilles. Conan Doyle died on July 7, 1930, at Crowborough, Sussex.
For many years, the region around the Baskerville estate was poor and backward, but when Sir Charles Baskerville returns to claim his estate, the region again begins to prosper. By devoting his vast fortune-earned in business-to better the community, Sir Charles fills the long-empty role of leadership that is the duty of the Baskervilles. But into this otherwise happy and orderly society comes disorder in the form of two utterly evil men. One is a convicted mass murderer escaped from prison, who lurks about on the moors; the other is Seldon, a clever criminal, who is insidious enough to corrupt the faithful Baskerville servants into the service of evil.
Even more unsettling is the terrible Hound of the Baskervilles. When the good Sir Charles Baskerville is murdered, an ancient curse on the family is revealed that now threatens Sir Henry, the new heir. For generations, the Baskerville family has been victimized by a giant, spectral hound that prowls the moors. The hound now seems to be loose again; it has claimed Sir Charles and appears ready to strike again. Is this a supernatural creature or merely part of someone’s devious plot to supplant the rightful heirs of Baskerville Hall?
Sherlock Holmes is called upon to solve the mystery, and the intricate story builds to an extraordinary climax when the hound attacks: “Fire burst from its open mouth, its eye glowed with a smoldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame.” A fiend from hell seems loosed upon Sir Henry.
Critical Appreciation of the Story
Holmes represents several things from his role as the great detective. He is the ever practical man, not even caring about the rotation of the Earth, since it does not affect the case. Amidst widespread belief in curses and the supernatural, Holmes is really the only one who never doubts the pursuit of a rational cause. In this capacity, Holmes represents the world of explanations, of order, logic, and science.
Out of awe and appreciation for his skills as a detective, Holmes is also seen as a provider of security. Watson mentions several times that he wishes the detective were there, instead of back in London. Sir Henry also wants Holmes to be around, and so both men are relieved when Holmes is found nearby. He has a reputation of being able to handle difficult cases and prevent, or at least lessen, danger, with good reason. He is the one people turn to, as Dr. Mortimer did, when they do not know what else to do.
Finally, Holmes represents goodness. He seeks and finds the truth, and brings justice in driving evil to its demise (Stapleton’s death). However, this underlying theme, so familiar in literature, of good victorious over bad, is not always clear cut because of the complexity of the characters and plot. One example of this is Holmes’s deception of Watson.
Though Watson plays a part in the case, he is primarily significant as the narrator of the story. Since he is, like most readers, not a detective, he is able to relate information as the average person would likely see it. This is beneficial because it keeps the novel suspenseful, much more so than if we knew that Holmes suspected the Stapletons from the start.
Watson demonstrates a much more sudden, emotion-based way of thought than Holmes. His reports include the psychological feel of the place and speculations on the character of various people that are more significant for the literary purpose than the case. He pursues Selden with Sir Henry despite the danger in trying to confront such a desperate man. He waits with his revolver for the stranger, and when it turns out to be Holmes who explains the situation to him, he is all set to accuse Stapleton in person. Even Watson’s surprise at some of Holmes’s deductions at the beginning of the book indicates this less rigid thinking.
Mr. Jack Stapleton
First of all, Stapleton represents the corrupting influence of money and power. He killed Sir Charles, attempted to do the same to Sir Henry, and likely committed several other crimes, all in the pursuit of an inheritance and quick money. Stapleton even had to leave South America because of stealing money.
Along with that is the theme of dehumanization. In the face of material goods, Stapleton treats everyone from his wife to his victims with the same disregard. To illustrate the point, he comes to collect “Miss” Stapleton in a manner similar to his pursuit of insects. Even the hound, already a vicious creature, becomes even wilder in his hands.
Perhaps the most complex and important part about Stapleton is the interplay within his character of crime and science (making him an interesting foil for Holmes, who is also a combination of those). On the one hand, he is a serious entomologist, but on the other hand, he uses what he gains from this to aid in his murders. Also, throughout the book, there are connections between the net Stapleton uses for his insects and the ones Holmes is using to catch him, as well as the one between his collections and the box of cases.
As the antagonist, Stapleton is essential to the plot and outcome of the story. It is his crime that initially intrigues Holmes, and his continued skill at executing it, that holds the detective’s interest.
The Baskerville family
This old line provides the contrast to Holmes when it comes to belief in the supernatural. They take the curse very seriously, to the point that previously Dr. Mortimer suggested Sir Charles get away from the moor for awhile and Sir Henry’s normally independent nature is tamed by Holmes’s warnings and the sound of the hound. Baskerville Hall itself fits in well with the rest of the moor, as still connected with the old ways of thought.
Furthermore, there is the matter of family connections. Stapleton is remarkably similar in attitude and appearance to his father Rodger and the wicked Hugo. This suggests that while the property and money are passed down, certain other things are as well. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is also in reference to these bad relatives.
Dr. Mortimer, The Barrymores
Dr. Mortimer is important in that he brings the case to Holmes and relays all the background facts. Though his character continues to appear intermittently, it is at the beginning that he has the greatest impact on the plot. Also, his cane, when deductions are made from it, provides a good introduction to Holmes’s methods.
The Barrymores are similarly important characters in the plot. Selden, and their mysterious activities dealing with him, makes for a nicely misleading subplot, drawing Watson’s suspicions to them for awhile.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has a fairly complex, but very intense plot. The plot begins with the strange death of Sir Charles Baskerville. He was found dead on the famous yew alley of Baskerville Hall, but with no markings, and very little evidence on what caused the death. An old family legend about some of his ancestors, and a great black hound, makes the death even more strange - even suggesting devilish and supernatural powers. Meanwhile, Holmes must decide whether it is still safe for Sir Charles' heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, to go to Baskerville Hall at the moment; would he reach the same fate as Sir Charles? A strange letter and some small, unexplained disappearances follow, and someone seems to be very intrested in Henry Baskerville. When everything fails in London, Holmes sends his faithful assistant, Watson, with Sir Henry to gather as much information as possible, and though he finds little, he gets just enough little bits of information for Holmes to realize what caused the death, as well as the strange happenings...but maybe too late?
The Hound of the Baskervilles starts out at a moderate pace, gets really mind absorbing near the middle - the fact collecting phase - and then finishes with great excitement at the Climax, when Holmes solves the case, with great action.
Theme is not a major element of The Hound of the Baskervilles. This novel is a mystery book, so most of the setup of the book revolves around the plot. There is no obvious main lesson or point this novel is trying to teach; it's written for entertainment. Sherlock Holmes solves another mystery amazingly with many insignificant looking little clues to lead him to a conclusion, making the plot a major part instead of the theme. When finished reading the book, the theme is more like an afterthought. The author's primary purpose was to convey a very complex problem which Sherlock Holmes needs to solve, which the theme element become a secondary part in the novel. This is like most mystery books as well, with the theme not as relevant as the other parts and ideas in the story.
In Hound of the Baskervilles writing style is direct. There is no figurative language except or the occasional simile due to the fact that Dr. Watson has a lot of ideas to get across. The style is also very suspenseful by dropping small hints toward the guilty one. The voice of Watson can be heard clearly in this novel. Despite the suspense on reflection, the organization and ideas all drive towards the climax and resolution. The word choice is pseudoelevated using some complex words but mostly moderate words. This allows the reader more energy to focus on the plot. This book writing style has the power to keep you reading from cover to cover.