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Free Online Study Guide for The Hound of the Baskervilles

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CONFLICT


Protagonist

The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force. The main protagonist, the central character in the novel, is Mr. Sherlock Holmes, given his ability to drive the plot forward. Dr. Watson could be considered a secondary protagonist in his roles as aide and narrator but he is not the main one since attention in the novel is focused on Holmes’s management of the case.

The detective figures out that it is not a supernatural hound brought on by a curse that is the Baskerville problem, but a person with interests in the inheritance. He hides out in the area to continue his investigation in secret, until Watson and then the death of Selden makes his presence known. When the pair then arrive at Baskerville Hall, Holmes uncovers the conclusive piece of evidence in the case, the motive-Stapleton is a Baskerville, as can be seen in the portrait of Hugo Baskerville, and therefore stands in line to inherit the fortune and estate. Holmes brings the case to a close with his plan to have Sir Henry leave the Stapleton house at night and walk across the moor until the hound appears and is shot to death.


Antagonist

The main antagonist, the character that opposes and hinders the protagonist, is Stapleton. He is the man behind the mystery, which by Holmes’s own admission, is most difficult and certainly worthy of his best efforts. It is not until the very end that there is even any hard evidence against Stapleton to bring to court and by that time, he has fled (unsuccessfully) into Grimpen Mire.

Stapleton was a devious man from the start (not surprisingly, given his connection with Rodger and Hugo Baskerville), and was forced to leave both Costa Rica and a town near Yorkshire, England because of his corruption. When he realizes he is in line for such a large inheritance, he devises a plan based on the old family legend and the superstitious nature of the countryside. He finds a fierce hound and covers it in phosphorous, then manages to kill off Sir Charles and comes close to doing likewise with Sir Henry.

Climax

The climax, the high point of action within the novel, comes when the hound appears out of the fog in pursuit of Sir Henry. All the events have been building towards this moment, when it is discovered that the descriptions of the hound are accurate, Sir Henry’s life is hanging in balance, and Stapleton, knowing that now it is clear beyond a doubt that it has been him behind the legend, runs for his life. The climax is magnified by the lack of action before and after that moment-Watson, Lestrade, and Holmes sitting around waiting, and then, following an unsuccessful attempt to find Stapleton, Watson and Holmes chatting back at their apartment.

Outcome

The major outcome, the way events are left at the end of a novel, is that Stapleton is dead, though this cannot be more than an assumption since his body was never found. Sir Henry is recovering mentally by traveling about with Dr. Mortimer. Holmes and Watson have since had a couple of other successful cases.



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