The Hound of the Baskervilles’ remains one of the most popular detective stories ever since its publication in 1902. ” Looking closely at the structure of the text give reasons why this may be so. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a British author most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, which are generally considered a major innovation in the field of crime fiction and were amongst the first of the detective genre stories.
He was a prolific writer whose other works include science fiction stories, historical novels, plays and romances, poetry, and non-fiction. He created the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes in the 19th century, initially published in the ‘Strand’ magazine. The character grew tremendously in popularity with the beginning of the first series of short stories. Soon the character was so loved that people refused to believe he wasn’t a real person. Conan Doyle became tired of Holmes as he wanted to been known for his more serious writing and decided to try kill him off. In December 1893, he did so and the nation went into mourning over the beloved character, obituaries appeared in newspapers, some wore black armbands, Conan Doyle was accused of murder. Public outcry led him to bring the character back.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a mentally engaging detective novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle got much of the inspiration for the book from real-life people and places. When in Cromer on a golfing holiday with Fletcher Robinson he first heard the legend of the ‘Black Shuck’, a ghostly hound which allegedly roamed the Norfolk coast. This fired his imagination so much that the two men spent time exploring Dartmoor the following month. It is thought that ‘Hound Tor’ also acted as inspiration to the novel. Conan Doyle soon realised the need for Sherlock Holmes in this story and therefore brought him back. When describing the plot of his new book he wrote that he wanted it to be ‘a real creeper’.
One of the reasons for the huge success of the story is the way Conan Doyle has interwoven two different genres. The Hound of the Baskervilles has combined a traditional detective story genre with elements of a Gothic tale. The many clues of the detective case are made even more interesting by the possibility that a supernatural force could be at work in the form of the evil black hound.
The classic Gothic novel includes horror, the supernatural, and a dark and gloomy atmosphere. The Hound of the Baskervilles has all of the elements of a Gothic tale. The rich landowner Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead in the park of his manor, surrounded by the moorland of Dartmoor, in the county of Devon. He appears to have died from heart attack, but the victim’s close friend, Dr Mortimer, is convinced that the death was due to a supernatural creature, which haunts the moor in the shape of an enormous hound with blazing eyes and jaws. Fearing for the safety of Baskerville’s heir, his nephew Sir Henry, who is coming to London from Canada, Dr Mortimer appeals for help from Sherlock Holmes.
The doctor also reveals that he found the footprints of a gigantic hound near Sir Charles’ dead body, but did not report it knowing that no one would have believed him. The Hall, where Sir Henry is traveling to with Watson and Dr. Mortimer, is surrounded by the gloomy moors, and wild countryside with “brambles”, and rushing streams. Watson is to stay with Sir Henry in case of danger. Unfortunately, “The Notting Hill Murderer” has escaped and is in the area. He is especially known for his brutality, and is possibly insane. While Watson and Sir Charles are traveling to the hall, they drive through “drifts of rotting vegetation” and a “valley dense with scrub oak and fir.” They also notice “the gloomy curve of the moor” and “the jagged and sinister hills” in the distance. In the night there are frightening sounds.
Local farmers claim to have seen a terrifying black dog roaming the moors at night in the vicinity of Baskerville Hall. Several of the Baskerville descendents meet their end mysteriously and violently. Dr Mortimer tells Holmes and Watson of the so-called Baskerville curse that has, he believes, been killing the Baskerville heirs for centuries, in revenge for the misdeeds of one Sir Hugo Baskerville. The legend of this hound and the presence of large paw prints by Sir Charles’s body adds to the scary atmosphere of the novel. Watson also hears the baying of a hound upon the moor. The vast gloominess and supernatural atmosphere demonstrate a Gothic tale.
The first five chapters on the other hand shows clues of a detective story. Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Watson, must attempt to solve the mystery of Sir Charles’ death, and after being introduced to Sir Henry, the mystery deepens, when Henry receives a note from an unidentified person, who warns him to stay away from Baskerville Hall. The note is made mostly from newspaper scraps to prevent identification of the handwriting.
Holmes believes the note could be from someone concerned for Sir Henry’s safety, or perhaps someone trying to scare him away, possibly to get hold of his estate. Holmes suspects that the person who sent the note is following Sir Henry. Holmes sees a man with a dark beard in a horse drawn cab, who is watching Sir Henry but the man races away before Holmes can catch him. Also another mystery is the case of the missing boots belonging to Sir Henry. At this point, Holmes is left with a number of clues that have led nowhere.
There are further clues on arrival at Baskerville hall. Sir Henry becomes romantically interested in one of the residents of the moor, Miss stapleton. Sir Henry continues to pursue Miss Stapleton until her brother runs up on them and yells angrily. Also the mystery grows through remnants of a letter written to Sir Charles Baskerville prior to his death, it was written by a Miss Laura Lyons from Coombe Tracey. She wrote this letter to finance her divorce and seeing how Sir Charles was a nice man she thought he would agree. The meeting was in Yew Alley in front of the gate at around 2am. The exact time of the death of Sir Charles. Coincidence or Set-up? As well as this a strange man is spotted upon the moor also raising suspicion. All of these events have built a larger and larger mystery, which is the trademark of a detective novel.
For a large section of the novel Holmes is absent. The conflict of the novel is between reason, represented by Sherlock Holmes and supernatural, represented by the moor. Watsons own romatisism adds to the myth with the real sounds of baying from a hound and the mists and fogs. The moor seems to almost become one of the characters deliberately working against Holmes, at the end of the novel the mists and fogs of the moor almost stop Holmes from catching the real criminal.
When Holmes returns to the story the explanation is simple. Over dinner at Baskerville Hall, the detective stares at Hugo Baskerville’s portrait and then it hits him. He covers the hair to show the face to reveal none other than Jack Stapleton. This provides the motive in the crime – with Sir Henry gone, Stapleton could lay claim to the Baskerville fortune. Under the threat of advancing fog, they wait outside Merripit House, where Sir Henry has been dining.
When the baronet leaves and sets off across the moor, the hound is soon let loose. It really is a terrible beast, but Holmes and Watson manage to shoot it before it can hurt Sir Henry seriously, as well as discovering that its hellish appearance was acquired by means of phosphorus. They discover the beaten Mrs. Stapleton bound and gagged in the bedroom, and when she is freed, she tells them of Stapleton’s hideout deep in the Great Grimpen Mire. When they look for him next day, they are not able to find him, as he is dead, having being sucked down into the bottomless depths of the mire. Holmes and Watson are only able find and recover Sir Henry’s boot used by Stapleton to give the hound Sir Henry’s scent. So therefore the story is a conventional ‘whodunit’ with a suspect, weapon, motive, victims and a red herring. Despite the moor almost winning at the end with the unexpected fog.