Discuss Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s presentation of evil in the Hound of the Baskervilles In some eyes, Doyle is the creator of Sherlock Holmes and the man who started the whole detective genre scene. However, my admiration for Doyle goes further than just enjoying Holmes’s latest escapade. On a superficial level, Doyle uses powerful verbs and adjectives to create the evil atmosphere, and teamed up with the colourful writing of the background, he can simply and easily create a blanket of malice around the hound; “There stood a foul thing, a great, black beast…” In my mind, the best way Doyle portrays evil is by adding a touch of verisimilitude to his novel.
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“Of course, I’ve heard of the hound ever since I was in the nursery. It’s the pet story of the family, though I never thought of taking it seriously before.” Here, by adding a history to the hound, Doyle gave an unbelievable beast a sense of authenticity.
Doyle can contribute to the ‘believability factor’ in other ways; “From this point onwards I will follow the course of events by transcribing my own letters to Mr Sherlock Holmes which lie before me on the table.” This is an excellent example of how Doyle can make a fictional character recite a fictional event, and still have it sound as if it is a factual account. The weather is another method employed by Doyle to give the novel realism.
“October 16th – A dull and foggy day, with a drizzle of rain. The house is banked in with rolling clouds, which rise now and then to show the dreary curves of the moor, with thin, silver veins upon the sides of the hills, and the distant boulders gleaming where the light strikes upon their wet faces” Here, instead of going into the character’s actions, Doyle goes into great detail about the surroundings, to add to the authenticity of the proceeding actions. More specifically about the bleak weather, the malevolence of the hound is easier to comprehend because of the desolate backdrop of the Moors. Moving away from the idea of the weather being used to create realism, I can see a more important part the weather plays in the novel. Doyle uses the weather so extensively throughout the narrative you could say that the weather is a character in its own right.
Doyle’s use of patheticfallacy helps to convey the character’s feelings of terror towards the evil of the hound, which combined with points I mentioned previously, help to improve the impact of the, in comparison, small matter of a large dog. ‘Discuss the presentation of evil in the Hound of the Baskervilles’ is a difficult question to answer. That’s why I thought it best to go to the hound itself; “Or a spectral hound, black, silent, and monstrous?” The hound is expressed as a satanic manifestation, a beast with no hope, no scruples. It symbolises the greed and evil harboured in men, and what could be unleashed if the thin veneer of morality, which protects us from our own desires, was breached. You could even go as far as to say that the beast is Doyle’s representation of the darker side of capitalism.
The beast is also a symbol of how fear can be use against people, and how people can be led to believe the unbelievable; “To do so would be to descend to the level of these poor peasants who are not content with a mere fiend dog, but must needs describe him with hell-fire shooting from his mouth and eyes.” As touched on previously, this story can be read simply by fans of the Sherlock Holmes trilogy and the simply put evil references on the surface of the novel can act in as good as a way as the deeper points. Also the pace of action is a simple writer’s trick to help boost the presentation of the subject. For example, Doyle uses fast snappy sentences, such as ‘gaunt, savage and as large as a small lioness’, to speed up the action, and he uses long and complex sentences to allow the reader to reflect on the previous action. They are also used to allow the reader to start to solve the mystery in their own head.
Another point of interest for me is the idea of a tragedy, the main tragedy of course being Stapleton. The thought that Stapleton could have been a good and loyal friend to Sir Charles Baskerville, but then turned to the greed in his own heart of the possible inheritance, is what constitutes a real tragedy. To conclude, there are many ways in which Doyle portrays evil through his writing, be they the beast, the realism developed or the simple good versus evil. However, I have also found that none of the methods can stand alone, and that they all compliment each other in the rich diversity that is the Hound of The Baskervilles. I’ve been James Cordingley, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.