In The Hound of the Baskervilles, how do we know that Barrymore is not evil at heart even though he helps the escaped criminal Selden?

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Barrymore, the manservant at Baskerville Hall, is introduced as a rather ambiguous figure. He is of rather dark and gloomy appearance and Watson is somewhat suspicious of him from the start. These suspicions are greatly increased when Watson sees him prowling about at night and signalling to someone on the moor. Watson for a while entertains the notion that he is the man who is after Sir Henry, but it turns out that Barrymore is helping the escaped criminal Selden who is hiding out on the moor.

Barrymore helps Selden, a vicious murderer, not because he himself is wicked, but for family reasons. Selden is actually his wife’s brother and had come to them for help. Barrymore does not want to shield a murderer on his own account but he is prepared to defy the law for the sake of his wife, who is terribly upset over her brother. Barrymore therefore acts out of concern for his wife, and this shows him to be more compassionate than anything else. He does not endorse Selden’s crimes and neither does his wife, but they do feel compelled to help him when he comes seeking their aid.

Watson, too, shows some sympathy for the criminal,  for the wretched life that he now leads. When Selden is killed by the hound upon the moor Watson even remarks that it is a ‘tragedy’ which is ‘black enough’, before adding the cautionary note that ‘this man had at least deserved death by the laws of his country’ (chapter 12).

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The Hound of the Baskervilles

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