Mahmoud What do we learn about the Victorians’ attitude to crime from a reading of Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’? In the Victorian era, society was made up of two types of classes; they were the aristocrats and the poor. Aristocratic people were very well educated, thought that they were caring and thought that they were not criminals but they were sometimes villains. Aristocrats were hypocritical; they thought they were moral. Poor people were often badly educated, and rich people thought the poor people were criminals.
In the Victorian times, the general feeling of where crime took place was in the poor areas but Conan Doyle suggests that not only the poor areas were the places where crime flourished so was the countryside; the countryside becomes symbolic of both man’s goodness and danger. The Charles Darwin theory was suggesting that the human race was good but we had another side, the beast side. Its like ‘Jeykell and Hyde’. Charles Darwin suggests that we’re not pure, we’re not evil, we’re twilight and we’re in between good& evil. He also tries to explain why people do such horrible deeds.
Sir Hugo Baskerville is symbolic of ‘the beast and evil in man’ and he represents Darwin’s theory of the beast of man that apes evolved into humans. He has an animalistic violence. He shows cruelty and ruthlessness towards people. This is from the bestial side of the brain. He uses more beast side than human side so he becomes totally insane and loses control. He was a ‘most wild, profane and godless man.’ He also had ‘cruel humour and his name went beyond the west as a criminal, he had taken the maiden off without anyone to protect her.’ The poor maiden was put up in the upper chamber and she listened to ‘terrible singing, shouting and oaths.’
Conan Doyle says Sir Hugo ‘hath of the devil’ and the ‘soul to the power of evil merged with him’; Sir Hugo ‘used the hounds to get the maiden’. This frightens me because he was being barbaric to her and didn’t show any care for her. ‘Hugo Baskerville passed me upon his black mare’ shows that he has a black heart. ‘ Behind him was such a hell hound God forbid should ever be at my heels.’ is describing that Hugo Baskerville’s personality and his companions are horrible and beastly.
Stapleton was the son of Rodger Baskerville. Sir Charles had shunned Sir Rodger because of his misdeeds and Rodger had fled to South America where he stole money. Stapleton changed his name to Vandeleur and returned to England with a South American wife. They ran a school in the north; this fell into disrepute and they moved to Devon, changing their name to Stapleton. He had inherited from the Baskervilles the violence and ruthlessness.
Holmes sees Stapleton exactly like the Hugo Baskerville portrait. Stapleton represents the Darwinian theory of the ‘beast and evil of man’ Stapleton is much more dangerous and menacing than his ancestor Hugo because he is more evolved, more cunning and intelligent. He uses his brain to scheme, plot, manipulate and control. He symbolises a man ‘of hidden fire’. He is like an actor as well because he always stays calm even when some people are ruining the plan of his. He is like a manager of a play letting all the actors come onto stage. He is an excellent planner because he started the death of Sir Charles.
He is very interested in ancient man: ‘”No, they are homes of our worthy ancestors. Prehistoric man lived thickly on the moor and you can even see his hearth and his couch if you have curiosity to go inside'” and Watson asked Stapleton who inhabited it. Stapleton tells him it was ‘” Neolithic man-no date; he grazed his cattle on these slopes, and he learned to dig for tin when the bronze sword began to supersede the stone axe. Look at the great trench in the opposite hill. That is his mark. Yes, you will find some very singular points about the moor'”. He is also interested in extinct primal and primitive creatures: ‘”It’s a very rare bird- particularly extinct in England now, but all things are possible on the moor. Yes, I should not be surprised to learn that what we have heard is the cry of the last of the bitterns, Dr Watson. Oh, excuse me an instant. It is surely Cyclopides'” ‘Stapleton was rushing with extraordinary energy and speed in pursuit of it’.
Stapleton is like the moor, dangerous and evil, ‘ a long, low moan, indescribably sad, swept over the moor. It filled the air, and yet it was impossible to say whence it came. From a dull murmur it swelled into a deep roar and then sank back into a melancholy, throbbing murmur once again’. He controls it and his ‘nerves seemed to be stronger than mine.’ He is also associated with the hound ‘like a madman’ and those ‘lights eyes of his were blazing with fury.’
Stapleton has some very good skills ‘” foreseeing her as much more useful character when she is free'” and with other skill as well such as ‘I seemed to see something of a terrible creature with infinite patience and craft, with a smiling face and a murderous heart.’ His ingratiating, smooth, deceptive manner is seen in:'” A moderate walk along this moor-path brings us to Merripit House, perhaps you will spare an hour that I may have the pleasure of introducing you to my sister.'” The moor is a metaphor for Stapleton: ‘It is a vast and so barren, and so mysterious’. His death is interesting because he dies from his own evil: ‘Stapleton never reached the island of refuge towards which he struggled through the fog upon that last night. Somewhere in the heart of the great Grimpen Mire, down in the foul slime of the huge morass which had sucked him in, this cold and cruel- hearted man is for ever buried.’