An examination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous book.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is about a famous detective known as Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson. They are recruited to solve a case involving a curse on a family known as Baskerville. The curse involves a hound that is believed to come from Hell. Sherlock and Watson must solve the case of the Baskerville legend before the last remaining Baskerville heir is killed. What follows is a series of plot twists that is bound to keep the reader guessing till the very end.
The setting of The Hound of the Baskervilles is the moor because it is where the Baskerville murders take place and these murders pose the major conflict. The moor is described as extremely dreary and melancholy. “…There rose in the distance a gray, melancholy hill, with a strange jagged summit, dim and vague in the distance….” (page 81). This hill is the moor and being described as gray shows its mystery because gray is the color of fog, which covers the moor. The setting of the story describes the theme of the story and the theme of the story is mystery. That is why it is important that the setting of the story be described as dark and mysterious.
Dr. Watson is the main character of the story as well as the narrator. He is described by Holmes as “a conductor of light” (page 11) but not himself luminous. This means that Watson does not come up with the answers to the problem but he leads a person on the right track to the solution. This is a characteristic of a great sidekick/assistant. He tells Sherlock valuable sources of information that if he had not given, the case would not have been much more difficult to solve.
For example, he tells Sherlock of the Barrymore’s relation to Selden and of Mrs. Lyons relationship with Sir Charles. Holmes and Watson make a great team because without the other, nothing would be accomplished. He gives Sherlock the motivation he needs to accomplish the case. Watson is the piece to that missing puzzle and that is why he has great traits for being a sidekick. Therefore, Watson is the main character because without him there would be no Holmes and without Holmes there would be no story.
The story begins on 221B Baker Street, the address of the infamous detective Sherlock Holmes. He shares this house with his assistant and close friend, Dr. Watson. The crime-solving duo is visited by Dr. James Mortimer of the Charing Cross Hospital who tells them of the recent death of the wealthy aristocrat, Sir Charles Baskerville. He then tells them of the legend that is associated with the deaths of several members of the Baskerville family as well as the death of Sir Charles. Dr. Mortimer (Sir Charles’s physician) informs them of one Hugo Baskerville who fell in love with a young maiden but she took no interest in him.
One night, Hugo and many of his evil friends carried the maiden off to Baskerville Hall where they locked her in a room. However, she escaped with the help of some ivy and set off homeward. When Hugo realized of her escape, “he cried aloud before all the company that he would that very night render his body and soul to the Powers of Evil if he might but overtake the wench” (page 22). So Hugo, with the rest of his companions, followed the maiden’s trail.
Then, as accounted for by a night shepherd, the maiden and Hugo were seen lying dead with a “a great black beast shaped like a hound yet larger” (page 24) picking at Hugo’s throat. The hound is described in the account as a beast that had come straight from Hell. After, Mortimer finishes the story, he tells Holmes of his belief that the hound is of the supernatural. He also asks Holmes what to do with Sir Henry Baskerville, the last surviving Baskerville heir who desires to go to Baskerville Hall, a place of absolute danger due to the number of deaths there.
Holmes agrees to be of any possible help that he can. The doctor departs from Baker Street and returns with Sir Henry Baskerville who receives an envelope with a pasted together message inside saying: “as you value your life and your reason keep away from the moor” (page 48). This encourages Holmes’s thought that the cause of all the murders is not supernatural. The threatening message does not dissuade Henry from going to Baskerville Hall, so he departs accompanied by Dr. Watson.
In Watson’s stay at Baskerville Hall, there are a number of characters that Watson regards as suspects. These people include Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore, the housekeepers, Selden, a escaped convict wandering the countryside, Mr. Stapleton, a naturalist, Beryl Stapleton, Mr. Stapleton’s sister, and Mr. Frankland, a neighboring amateur astronomer. Watson tells Holmes of these people through letters that he writes to him. He tells Holmes of Sir Henry’s affection towards Miss Stapleton and of Mr. Stapleton’s strange behavior towards this affection. “[Stapleton] was running wildly towards them, his absurd net dangling behind him.
He gesticulated and almost danced with excitement in front of the lovers. What the scene meant I could not imagine, but it seemed to me that Stapleton was abusing Sir Henry, who offered explanations, which became more angry as the other refused to accept them” (page 126-127). Watson also tells Holmes of the Barrymore’s’ affiliation with Selden. He tells Holmes that he observes Mr. Barrymore constantly sneaking about the upstairs with a candle in his hand. At last Watson gathers up the courage to follow Barrymore. He finds out that Barrymore was using the candle to signal to someone. It is Mrs. Barrymore who confesses that the man her husband was signaling was her brother, Selden the criminal!
She reveals that the signal was to let him know that food was ready to be taken to him. She and her husband beg Watson not to tell the police about his whereabouts and he agrees to keep their secret safe. In gratitude for his actions, Barrymore tells Watson some information on Sir Charles’ death. He tells Watson that the reason Charles was at the moor on the night of his death was to meet a Miss L.L. Barrymore knows this because of the remains of a letter he found in Sir Charles’s study. The letter reads: “Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten o’clock. L.L” (page 151).
Watson figures out from Dr. Mortimer (familiar with many of the locals of the area) that this woman’s name is Laura Lyons and she is Mr. Frankland’s daughter.
It is also brought to Watson’s attention by Barrymore (who is told by Selden) that there is another man living on the moor of whom he does know. This greatly troubles Watson but he decides that he should question the newly discovered Laura Lyons. He then visits the estate of Coombe Tracey (where Mrs. Lyons lives) and cross-examines.
She tells him reluctantly that she knew Sir Charles because he so generously helped to support her after she divorced her husband. She then tells Watson that she set up a time to meet with Sir Charles because she needed help with something involving her marriage. However, she tells Watson that she never went to meet with Charles because she received help from another source, and she doesn’t write back to tell Sir Charles of this because she hears of his death in the newspaper the next morning. This is all that Mrs. Lyons reveals to Watson and her reluctance in telling her story greatly disturbs him.
After his meeting with Mrs. Lyons, discovers that the mysterious man who has been hiding at the moor is in reality, Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock reveals to Watson (after doing research) that Beryl Stapleton and Mr. Stapleton were married and it was Miss Stapleton who sent Henry the message of warning. He also tells Watson that Laura Lyons, thinking that Mr. Stapleton was single, agreed on becoming his wife! They then deduce that Stapleton is the cause of Sir Charles death but they do not yet know why he did it.
After this is revealed, Holmes and Watson hear a scream and they follow the scream to see a man fall dead. They examine the body and assume that it is Sir Henry because of his clothing but it turns out to be Selden the criminal (Barrymore gave Sir Henry’s clothes to Selden not knowing that this would lead to his death).
As Sherlock returns to Baskerville Hall, a painting of Hugo Baskerville catches his eye. He analyzes the facial structure and compares it to Stapleton’s. He then comes to the astonishing conclusion that Stapleton is a Baskerville! Sherlock then finds it necessary that he should call upon Mrs. Lyons and again cross-examine her. He tells her that Miss Stapleton is really Mr. Stapleton’s wife and she is astonished and tells Holmes she meant no harm to Sir Charles. She confesses to Holmes that Stapleton dictated the letter (for Sir Charles) to her and claimed she would receive help from Sir Charles for the cost of her divorce.
Then he dissuaded her from keeping the appointment because he wanted to remove anything from dividing them (in this case Sir Charles). This confession is enough for Holmes and he, accompanied by Watson and another detective known as Lestrade, decide they have enough evidence to take Stapleton into custody. Before they can get to him, the ghostly Hound of the Baskervilles attacks them. Sherlock and Watson shoot it dead and find that Stapleton used phosphorus to make the hound produce an eerie glow. Again they pursue Stapleton and find out of his location from Mrs. Stapleton. They come upon his trail but find that he was sucked into the Grimpen Mire.
In the concluding chapter, Sherlock reveals to Watson that Stapleton was the nephew of Sir Charles and he desperately desired Charles’s estate. He knew the only way to get the estate was to kill off Charles. So, he learned of the legend of the Hound of the Baskerville and bought a strong savage dog. He knew, from Dr. Mortimer, that Charles had a weak heart and that he was superstitious. He hoped that his wife would lead Charles to his death, but she refused. He then came upon Laura Lyons, whom he met through Sir Charles. Thinking he was a single man, she agreed to marry him.
Learning of Charles’s departure to London, Stapleton told Lyons to write him a letter telling him to meet her at the moor before his departure. He then prevented her from going and unleashed the hound on the moor. The dog pursued the waiting Charles who died of fright. Stapleton then heard of Sir Henry’s arrival and planned to kill him but failed. Sherlock’s deductions prove that the Sir Charles’s murder was of a natural and not a supernatural source.
In conclusion, the Hound of the Baskervilles tells the story of the infamous detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted colleague Dr. Watson. They are visited by Dr. James Mortimer who tells them of the legend of the hound of the Baskervilles which is believed to curse the Baskerville family. Dr. Watson accompanies the last known surviving heir of the Baskerville family, Sir Henry, to Baskerville Hall where he must solve the case before death or some other evil fate befalls Henry. What follows is a series of surprises and twists waiting for the reader at every chapter. This page-turning thriller will keep the reader guessing until the very last page.