Let us know your thoughts about The Hound of the Baskervilles using the form above, and check out some of the thoughts and questions below.
Scientific Method: Conan Doyle uses Mortimer’s walking stick to introduce the reader to Sherlock Holmes (much in the same way that Edgar Allan Poe introduces Dupin in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”). Holmes, in turn, uses the walking stick to test Watson’s deductive skills. How do you feel about Holmes’ scientific method of deduction?
A Complex Friendship: In that first scene, Holmes tells Watson, “It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.” Holmes expresses his appreciation for his friend in a condescending way. However, Watson seems content being Holmes’s muse, noting, “his words gave me keen pleasure.” Why is Watson flattered by Holmes’s rudeness? Is Holmes’s hubris excusable?
Setting: Let’s talk London vs. Dartmoor. The Grimpen Mire is unstable ground. It seems to represent the idea that Dartmoor is stuck in the past. There’s poetic justice to the fact that Stapleton eventually gets dragged down into it.
All the Spies: A man spies on Sir Henry in London, Barrymore keeps watch for Selden, Holmes spies on Stapleton, Franklin peers out his telescope, Watson and Henry spy on Barrymore, and Cartwright spies on Watson.
Communication: “One of Sherlock Holmes’s defects—if, indeed, one may call it a defect—was that he was exceedingly loath to communicate his full plans to any other person until the instant of their fulfilment. Partly it came no doubt from his own masterful nature, which loved to dominate and surprise ….” What do you think? Is this communication style a “defect”?
Brain Attic: Holmes says, “Intense mental concentration has a curious way of blotting out what has passed. The barrister who … is able to argue with an expert upon his own subject finds that a week or two of the courts will drive it all out of his head once more. So each of my cases displaces the last.”
Lies and Deceit: Even though The Hound of the Baskervilles emphasizes the importance of truth and justice, almost everyone lies in the book. The Barrymores lie about Selden, the Stapletons lie about their relationship (and about most everything else), Watson lies to Mr. Frankland, and Holmes lies to Watson. When is deceit justified?
Aiding and Abetting: Barrymore says Watson shouldn’t have hunted the murderer, Selden. Henry says they might have kept quiet if Barrymore had told the secret of his own free will. Barrymore says Selden is heading to South America and turning him in would only get the Barrymores in trouble. Watson says Selden’s departure would “relieve the tax-payer of a burden.” Watson even pities Selden on the rainy moors, noting, “Whatever his crimes, he has suffered something to atone for them.” Keep in mind that Watson remembers Selden’s case well “on account of the peculiar ferocity of the crime and the wanton brutality.” So many sketchy rationalizations …
The Ties That Bind: Mrs. Barrymore’s brother was a violent murderer, but she grieves his death, for to her “he always remained the little wilful boy of her own girlhood, the child who had clung to her hand.” Watson writes, “Evil indeed is the man who has not one woman to mourn him.” Selden has Mrs. Barrymore to mourn him. Stapleton has no one. Did you see Stapleton as more evil than Selden? How far would you go to protect one you love?
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned: Does Stapleton’s poor treatment of Beryl and Laura Lyons relieve either woman of responsibility in helping him? Are they accessories to murder?
Supernatural Horror: In the intro to The Big Bow Mystery, Israel Zangwill said mysteries should have a “pervasive atmosphere of horror and awe such as Poe manages to create.” How would you describe the atmosphere in Baskervilles? At one point, Mortimer says, “There is a realm in which the most acute and most experienced of detectives is helpless.” What if Holmes had found no rational explanation for the events on the moor? How shocked would you have been if the story included an actual supernatural hound?