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To what extent is The Hound of the Baskervilles a "whodunit"and to what extent is it a...

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becksbeck | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 8, 2010 at 5:00 AM via web

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To what extent is The Hound of the Baskervilles a "whodunit"and to what extent is it a gothic horror?

I have written an essay on this but i'm really strugging on what to put in the conclusion. Any ideas would be great, thanks.

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 9, 2010 at 11:58 PM (Answer #1)

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In order for a novel to be considered part of the gothic genre, it usually has a medieval-type setting. Baskerville mansion fits the bill for this. Even though the time period of Hound of the Baskervilles is not set during the Medieval period, the legend of the hound originates centuries before the current time period, so could be considered Medieval in origin. Next, the novel must have a gloomy setting, which this one does. There is often a woman in distress that needs to be rescued (Stapleton’s wife), and there is an evil villain. Since we don’t know who the real villain is until the end, this does not totally fit the genre, but when we find out that it is Stapleton and that he has beat up his wife and tied her up, we get a little glimpse of his evil nature. The novel contains supernatural events that are later explained by Holmes’ scientific method of inquiry and observation. There is often an evil prophecy in a gothic novel and this one has the hound legend. A gothic novel is scary, and this one certainly is that. There is the sense of terror throughout and both physical and psychological terror. The gothic novel deals with dreams or nightmares or disturbed minds. Throughout this novel, this type of fear is built up and the reader is led to expect that something sinister is going on. It takes place on the moor, which is a typical setting in gothic novels. In the end, however, it is all about the money, so it is sort of an affront to the gothic genre. Perhaps this was the author’s intent? When Holmes discovers how Stapleton carried out his plot, it is all a devious scheme and what we are left with is a great “who-dun-it” that has a gothic feel to it.

I’m not sure what your thesis is, but I always think that a cool way to conclude a paper such as this is with a dynamite quote from the novel itself. A really good quote that kind of sums up the gothic and “who-dun-it” aspect of the novel is this one:

“The devil’s agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not?”

As far as a quote for proving that the Stapletons were married, when Holmes and Watson discover the tied-up Mrs. Stapleton, she asks "Is he safe?" Holmes thinks she is talking about Stapleton, but she replies:

"No, no, I did not mean my husband. Sir Henry? Is he safe?"

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