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Free Critical Analysis of The Hound of the Baskervilles

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CRITICAL ANALYSIS AND NOTES


CHAPTER FOURTEEN:
The Hound of the Baskervilles


Summary


To Watson and Lestrade’s frustration, Holmes will not tell them his plan for the night, restrained from doing so by his secretive nature as a detective and a sense of a sort of showmanship. The three leave the wagonette and go on towards the Merripit House. After making sure Lestrade is armed as well, Holmes cautions them to be quiet as they get nearer. Holmes and Lestrade remain a short distance back, behind some rocks, while Watson moves closer to get a look inside the house. Though unable to locate Mrs. Stapleton, he does see the nervous baronet and Mr. Stapleton. The latter soon leaves the room and enters the outhouse (where he is keeping the hound). He soon comes out and returns to the house, and Watson goes back to the rocks.

A thick fog makes Holmes increasingly nervous and they eventually must move back. Fortunately, Sir Henry leaves the Merripit House presently, walking quickly and nervously by their hiding place. Then the hound appears, with the glowing eyes and mouth, looking just as the legend said. Lestrade is scared beyond action, and the hound has passed them by the time Watson and Holmes recover enough to fire at it. Hearing the howl that means they have wounded it, they run after the beast and Holmes, arriving there first, shoots it to death.

Sir Henry had been knocked to the ground but did not sustain any physical injuries. He comes around with the help of a little brandy but will later spend some time traveling with Dr. Mortimer to regain his full strength. For the moment though, they leave him to recover on a rock and go look in the house. Holmes does not expect to find Stapleton there and he is correct, but they do find Mrs. Stapleton. She has been beaten, gagged, and bound in the middle of a locked (Holmes kicks it in) room, full of the naturalist’s collections of butterflies and moths.

Once they free her, she asks about Sir Henry and the hound. Knowing now that she has been used by her husband all along, she tells them of Stapleton’s retreat to an abandoned mine deep within the marshy land. They set out on the path the next day; even with the fog lifted and it marked out by the Stapletons, it is difficult to follow. But they manage to find his retreat, and in it, the phosphorescence mixture used on the hound and the remains of Dr. Mortimer’s spaniel. Apparently Stapleton did not make it. At one point, Holmes is able to retrieve Sir Henry’s stolen boot, but there are no signs of the naturalist after that. It is to be assumed that he fell in and died.



Notes


There is a parallel to be drawn in that the cases of butterflies and moths were found in the upper room of the Merripit House, where the beaten wife has also been imprisoned. Stapleton as a naturalist is not all that different from Stapleton as a man, and he seems to treat people with no more regard than his insects. The overlapping of crime and science is seen throughout, set up by Holmes’s comment from Chapter One about what a doctor would ask of a detective.

Another parallel arises when the dead spaniel is considered. It was eaten by the hound, another dog (even if they are quite different breeds). Sir Charles was also killed by one of his own kind, the fellow Baskerville descendent Stapleton.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN: A Retrospection


Summary


Holmes has had two cases since the Baskerville one, but they are now over as well. With the visit from Sir Henry and Dr. Mortimer that day (about to embark on a trip to complete the restoration of the baronet’s health), circumstances are right for Watson to ask about the details of the case.

Though the case is documented in his list (as promised in Chapter Thirteen), Holmes tells the course of events from memory. Stapleton is the son of Rodger Baskerville, born in South America and with the same name. He married Beryl Garcia of Costa Rica and they came to England after he stole a large amount of money. They changed their name to Vandeleur and established a school through the help of a tutor named Fraser. Vandeleur did have some success in entomology and had a moth named after him, before Fraser died and the school failed with a bad reputation.

Under the name Stapleton, they moved to Devonshire, where he soon found out that he was in line for a sizeable inheritance. Not knowing this or of Stapleton’s violent nature (it is believed that he is also responsible for several other violent crimes in the area, when his money was running low), Sir Charles and Dr. Mortimer talked freely with him, supplying additional information that he was able to use. Deciding to base the crime on the old family legend, he bought the vicious hound in London and walked it out to the hiding place in Grimpen Mire.

When his wife became uncooperative, he used Mrs. Lyons to lure Sir Charles out at night and then let loose the hound that pursued the old man until he collapsed dead. At Sir Henry’s arrival, Stapleton went into London where he followed him and had the boot stolen, so that the hound would have a scent. The preference for an old boot over a new one was Holmes’s clue that the hound was indeed real.

Mrs. Stapleton had also come to London, since her husband would not risk leaving her out of his control. She did manage to get the note to Sir Henry though and the lingering scent of her perfume on it helped lead Holmes to the correct suspect. While they were gone, their servant Anthony, who has since left the country, took care of the hound.

As events moved to Baskerville Hall and the surrounding area, Holmes began staying at Coombe Tracey and, when necessary, in the abandoned hut. In that way, and with Cartwright’s help, he was able to observe much without being known. The only thing left that Holmes is not able to answer completely (there are three alternatives) is how Stapleton planned on getting the inheritance if he had managed to kill Sir Henry. But knowing Stapleton’s evil cunning, Holmes is sure he would have found a way.

But the crime has been solved once again. Relaxing from their difficult work, Watson and Holmes are content to get dinner and take in the opera before another case comes their way, as it undoubtedly will.


Notes


Chapter Fifteen is basically an overview of the case, tying up any loose ends or questions that might still be lingering in the reader’s mind. This method of wrapping up is used frequently in detective stories, up to the modern day television show Monk. Clues are dropped at various points throughout the story but the reader never has enough knowledge to completely solve the case until this point, when the detective sums up the case.

This is unlike most other genres, where readers are used to finding things out as the characters do. But as Watson noted in Chapter Fourteen, detectives, unlike other people, do not like to disclose information beforehand; and Holmes would be the last to give up his talent to “dominate and surprise those who were around him.”



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