What are the many themes of The Hound of the Baskervilles?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Theme is the guiding message of the story.  In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the themes can best be described as

  • What goes around comes around
  • Greed is a powerful motivator
  • Appearances can be deceiving
  • We cannot be ruled by our fears

The first theme is evident in that Hugo Baskerville who tried to lock up the dame and then chase her down with a hound.  As a result, he died a violent death.  This was not because of a curse, but because of the natural consequences of his violent and impulsive actions.  This also results in his family’s reputation being tarnished by the curse.  The same theme follows Stapleton, because his harsh behavior was his doom.

Greed is a strong presence in the book.  It was what caused the original Baskerville to lock the young lady up and what led Stapleton to charade around as a simple naturalist.  The absence of greed in Sir Henry Baskerville, Holmes, and Watson is a great contrast.

Almost no one and nothing is what it seems in this book.  From the hound to the convict, things and people are revealed throughout the story as different from what is expected.  The same is true of Holmes, since he is supposed to be in London but is really hiding on the moor.  The supposedly harmless Barrymores are harboring a convict, and Stapleton is not only the murder, but his sister is really his wife.

Sir Charles Baskerville is so focused on his fear of death and the hound that he allows his judgment to be impaired.  At times, Watson and Sir Henry are also afraid, but they survive because they keep their wits about them and refuse to succumb to fear.