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The Hound of the Baskervilles

By juicylucy95 Feb 28, 2011 1203 Words
Analyse the literary techniques used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Chapter 9 of The Hound of the Baskervilles to keep the reader in a state of suspense.

In Chapter 9 of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creates tension and suspense with his use of the following techniques: form and narrative voice; setting; structure; language and narrative style; social and historical setting and literary tradition. This chapter involves a lot of mysteries which keeps the reader interested and intrigued. This chapter is written in epistolary form, in the form of a letter, which creates an intimate and direct tone to his writing. All of his thoughts and feelings are confided to the reader which makes the reader feel more and more involved. He includes everything he gets up to and constantly tries to surprise Holmes with his intellectual knowledge. In the letter, Watson misleads the reader on many occasions by providing false information. An example of this is when Barrymore is at the window in Baskerville Hall and gives a light signal to Mrs. Barrymore’s brother, Selden the escaped convict, to let him know there was food ready for him. However, Watson assumes Barrymore is having an affair and the light is a signal for a secret lover, “It had struck me that it was possible that some love intrigue was on foot. That would have accounted for his stealthy movements and also for the uneasiness of his wife.” When the reader discovers the truth it takes them by surprise which therefore creates suspense. These misleading occasions contribute to the sense of mystery and suspense as it makes the reader feel they are Watson’s dear friend, Holmes, as direct speech has been used which makes them feel closer to the characters and there are also many rhetorical questions used to create the effect of you, as the reader, being asked. The reader also discovers a lot about Watson in this chapter, for example, he constantly tries to impress Holmes and on many occasions he gives false information which tells us he’s not very good at being a detective, especially compared to Holmes. Chapter 9 takes place in Baskerville Hall, a gloomy mansion, and on the moor which is a deserted wilderness; this is a gothic setting which creates suspense and tension. This chapter begins at breakfast which is the beginning of a new day and also represents a new start, adventure, mystery and is a sign to the reader letting them know the mystery is only just beginning. The main action takes place at night which is connotation of death and mystery; this creates a sense of fear and unease. The storm is a typical gothic technique and the mystery of the hound creates a vivid impression upon the reader. All of these things contribute to the suspense and tension in the story because fear and an uneasy atmosphere is created even before the main action starts which gets the reader ready for the mystery to unfold.

The plot is revealed slowly, this keeps the reader interested and tension is created, also, the pace increases at times when the reader wants to know more which, in addition, makes the reader even more keen to solve the mystery. Many melodramatic statements are used which exaggerates the plot and characters in order to appeal to the readers emotions. Watson holds back a lot of details so the reader is taken by surprise when an important piece of information is revealed only a little at a time, it in a way keeps the reader excited as they are usually kept in the dark. This also makes the reader eager to find out more and be kept in with the action taking place.

The language used in this chapter helps to create a setting and build up of tension. Enigma codes are used and this is to portray a mysterious tone to the writing and encourage the reader to solve the mystery. Sensory language is used which is very vivid, particularly the sound and touch senses. An example of this is “The old board snapped and creaked beneath our feet”. This is effective as it in a way makes the reader feel these senses, therefore involves the reader.

The varied sentence length in this chapter keeps the pace varied; the short senses and paragraphs increase the pace and suspense. This is used when there is tension that reaches a climax, for example, when the baronet and Watson hear the cry of the Hound of the Baskervilles; “My God, what’s that, Watson?” Then Watson goes on to say, “I don’t know. It’s a sound they have on the moor. I heard it once before”. This could indicate the hound is about to attack, which would be the climax as the build up of tension is when the cry of the hound is heard by the baronet and Watson. The long sentences and paragraphs decrease the pace which adds more depth and detail to the narrative, for example, when the baronet asks Watson what he knows about the hound; “And yet it was one thing to laugh about in London, and it is another to stand out here in the darkness of the moor and to hear such a cry like that. And my uncle! There was the footprint of the hound beside him as he lay. It all fits together. I don’t think that I am a coward, Watson, but that sound seemed to freeze my very blood. Feel my hand!” The varied sentence lengths in this conversation create tension and suspense.

Social/Historical context
In 1887 when Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, Sherlock Holmes surfaced, the Victorians immediately fell for him because he is the detective they wished they had protecting their community. The police in London could not compare to the brave, courageous, witty character the Victorians were in awe of. Holmes is a fascinating character because he is a person who has overcome all his emotions, fears and irrationalities to become the perfect, logical reasoning machine. He solved every puzzle, every crime and in reality there was Jack the Ripper, loose on the streets of London who the police had failed to find. Everyday the women, many who were prostitutes, would live in fear knowing they could be next to be murdered and the police would still fail to stop him. Sherlock Holmes was their only insight of someone that would put their life at risk every day to protect the fellow characters which is why they would be devastated if he was killed off.

To conclude, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been very successful in creating suspense throughout the chapter by using many techniques that create the right atmosphere for the story, maintaining the readers interest and intrigue with many surprises and emotions; fear, uneasiness, tension. This is an important chapter as the reader gets to know a lot about Watson and also this chapter contains mysteries and puzzles which have to be solved. This chapter of The Hound of the Baskervilles is very effective as it is this chapter that the reader feels most involved with and closer to the characters.

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