Hound of the Baskervilles

This piece of coursework aims to show how Arthur Conan Doyle uses the setting and language to successfully create atmosphere and tension in the story of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” Arthur Conan Doyle lived in London in the late 19th century. His career was not exactly very successful in the early stages of his life. It started as him being a doctor onboard a ship, he was then an general practitioner in Southsea, but this career did not work for him either, and later he became an unsuccessful optician! So Doyle made the decision to dedicate himself to writing. Undoubtedly his most famous works are the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. They were loved by all the public, who made Holmes a cult figure.

At the time, the streets of London were full of crime. There were uncountable murders occurring and there was always someone breaking the law, whether it was petty theft, stealing, or even murder. The police force at the time were very disorganised and undisciplined and there were only a few of them who actually did their jobs properly and an even smaller number that were actually out on the streets. This enabled London to become a crime infested city, with such well-known criminals as Jack the Ripper being able to kill without being caught. This influenced Doyle’s writing to a great extent. Holmes was made to be the perfect gentlemen and detective. He always caught his man and was always dressed in very smart gentleman like clothes, precisely the kind of person London needed, and nothing like the police force at that time. This is why he became an instant success.

When people read Doyle’s books it allows them to think that they live in a world rid of crime and violence, a safe place with no criminals and murderers nothing like the London in the late 19th century. The novel was written in 1902, the main plot of it is that many years before a member of the Baskerville family, Hugo Baskerville, had beaten a young lady and had kept her in the house as his prisoner. While at a banquet this lady escapes and runs onto the moor to attempt to escape. Hugo, when he discovers she has escaped gathers his men and chases her onto the moor. Hugo then decides to go ahead and chase the lady personally.

After a while, his men come to see whether he has caught the lady, but they are horrified to see that the bodies of Hugo and the lady are lying dead on the floor, they are then terrified at the sight of a Gigantic hound standing over Hugo’s lifeless body, ripping flesh from his throat. Since then, it is said that this hound stalks the Baskerville family, and will kill any of the descendents if they wander over the moor at night.

In addition to the legend of the Baskervilles there are many other features that also make the novel successful as a horror and suspense thriller. Firstly, the scene is set on the moor, a barren and desolate place with a very evil reputation “But the moor with its mysteries and its strange inhabitants remains as inscrutable as ever.” Secondly, within the moor there are many supernatural things such as the Grimpen mire. The Grimpen mire is an area of bog with rather strange tales been told about it, which I will discuss in more detail later on.

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” is set on Dartmoor in Devon. The moor is the main setting in the story as this is where the notorious hound lives. It is also a very dark and gloomy area, allowing Doyle to create a far more effective atmosphere. “… And the old trees shot their branches in a sombre tunnel over our heads. Baskerville shuddered as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered like a ghost at the father end.”

This shows how Doyle creates his atmosphere; it also shows how unsure are the characters are about the moor and its surroundings. They are clearly quite worried about something, whether it is the legend of the hound or of Selden the escaped convict ” It is Selden, the Notting Hill murderer.” being out on the moor. The setting and atmosphere are very important in a story, they are like the music in a film, creating the mood and grabbing the attention of the readers/viewers. The weather is also another important aspect of the setting. The weather on the moor is extremely dark, foggy and mysterious, which helps to keep the reader in suspense.”

There hung a dense, white fog. It was drifting slowly in our direction, and banked itself up like a wall on that side of us, low, but thick and well defined.” This shows how the language Doyle uses gives the reader a clear impression of the setting and lets them imagine the fog almost creeping up on the unsuspecting characters as if the fog was alive, almost trapping them. The inhabitants of the moor are very superstitious about the legend of the hound. This allows the moor to seem much more supernatural and create an un-nerving effect on the reader.

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