Task: To identify the ways in which Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” can be considered a piece of gothic literature. Gothic literature is a mysterious and grotesque style of fiction writing, often based on legends and myths. The gothic style of literature deals with eerie events and sombre settings. Gothic stories are usually set in forests; moors; hills or other remote areas, away from the boundaries of normality and civilization.
The gothic period is believed to have begun in 1764 and the popularity of the genre continued to 1840. Around this time, a belief in supernatural occurrences and witchcraft arose; beliefs, which count towards the origins of gothic literature around this time, as people’s interest the genre, grew. The first famous gothic author was Horace Walpole who wrote “The castle of Otranto.” Many other well known gothic writers followed, including Ann Radcliffe; Edgar Allan Poe; Mary Shelley and Arthur Conan Doyle. Famous gothic titles include “The legend of Sleepy Hollow”, “Frankenstein”, “The Raven” and “Dracula.”Order now
The settings of gothic stories include those of manors; halls; castles and other residences of wealthy characters, often lords and ladies. These buildings, from the way they are described, have a distinct gothic style of architecture. The architectural features of these buildings include pillars; gargoyles; arches and points; oak interiors and dark dï¿½cor, resulting in buildings which are majestic and mysterious, impressive and oppressive.
Atmosphere is strongly evident in gothic stories and the general atmosphere is a dreary; mysterious; dark one. This atmosphere is frequently portrayed using severe weather conditions such as rain and snow. The stories are usually set in the decaying days of autumn and the dark days of winter and the horror normally occurs at night. Typical characters of gothic literature include those of dogs or wolves; lords and other rich people. Most gothic story lines comprise of a vicious, evil male who is abusive towards innocent, helpless females. Arthur Conan Doyle’s ” The Hound of the Baskervilles” contains many of these features of gothic literature therefore I would class it as a piece of gothic literature.
As already mentioned gothic novelists usually give a negative depiction of the landscape. The landscapes featured in the novels are normally described as hostile and grim. The depressing and dreary landscape that is a feature of gothic novels is also apparent in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Chapter 6 of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” features the first detailed description of the landscape, when Sir Henry Baskerville is traveling across the moors for the first time to arrive at Baskerville Hall. In this chapter, the landscape is described either through Dr. Watson’s observations or through Sir Henry’s comments.
The first description of the moors comes from Dr.Mortimer: “there rose in the distance a gray melancholy hill, with a strange jagged summit”. The “gg” sound in “jagged” is harsh and discordant, which gives the reader the impression that the landscape is hostile and dangerous, particularly as, by definition, the word jagged means sharply textured. The hill is described as “strange” which tells the reader that the landscape is mysterious. This benefits a gothic novel, as mystery and danger are key elements of atmosphere in this genre. “Melancholy” shows the landscape as being dreary and creates a sombre mood. In addition, in chapter 6 Dr. Mortimer describes the landscape as a “forbidding moor” which gives a rather frightening impression of the moor, with forbidding meaning menacing.
The hard and forceful consonants within the word add to the sinister impression as they convey a lack of warmth and a sense of unfriendliness. Further into chapter 6 the landscape is described again: “the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills.” The “ong” and “oom” sounds, which are elongated, create a mysterious impression when linked to the meaning of the phrase as both the length of the expanse of moorland and the depth of the gloom are emphasised. Adding to this, the harsh “gg” and “sin” sounds, in “jagged and “sinister”, create an intimidating feeling of the landscape; firstly because of the roughness of the “gg” but also because of the hissing effect at the start of “sinister”.
The dismal landscape of the moors is also described in later chapters of the book, for example “gloomy slopes of hills” in chapter 14 which creates a very disheartening feeling about the landscape, as does “ill-omened moor”, in the same chapter, meaning that the moor has a bleak feeling about it, created by the fact that the prefix “ill” means unlucky, bad or evil. The impression that the reader is left with is that nothing fruitful can be gained from being close to the moors; they can only bring discomfort and disaster.
In conclusion, it is clear that Arthur Conan Doyle describes the landscape in a way that corresponds to the style of gothic literature. The novel is set around remote moorland, which is portrayed to the reader through the frequent repetition of certain adjectives, which depict the landscape negatively. This technique is common to gothic literature as is the creation of an atmosphere that is a dismal, threatening one, suggesting that Conan Doyle’s writing is typically gothic.