Why is The Hound of the Baskervilles significant and why should people read it?

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There are two main reasons people should read The Hound of the Baskervilles.  First of all, it is one of Doyle’s most literary works.  The book is a detective story, but it ascends to a much higher level than most of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  It is a perfect example of a Victorian gothic novel.  It is dark and brooding, and the setting on the moor is perfect.  It brings to mind such other classic gothic novels as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Tess of the d’Ubervilles, but the novels share more than a setting.  They share a haunting atmosphere and heavy reliance on supernatural elements while none are actually ghost stories.  In this novel, sweeping literary descriptions of setting abound which are not really common in the other Holmes adventures.  Consider this sentence:

Our wagonette had topped a rise and in front of us rose the huge expanse of the moor, mottled with gnarled and craggy cairns and tors. A cold wind swept down from it and set us shivering. Somewhere there, on that desolate plain, was lurking this fiendish man, hiding in a burrow like a wild beast, his heart full of malignancy against the whole race which had cast him out. It needed but this to complete the grim suggestiveness of the barren waste, the chilling wind, and the darkling sky. (chapter 6)

The dark language is one element that sets the backdrop for a spooky mystery, but it also elevates the story above a detective novel.

The second reason one should read The Hound of Baskerville, and its significance, is that this is classic Sherlock Holmes.  Doyle made a lasting contribution to the mystery genre, and many detectives from Nero Wolfe in literature to The Mentalist on television have been modeled after the daft, eccentric and thoroughly brilliant Holmes.  In thisnovel the reader is kept in suspense, but a series of carefully sprinkled clues makes the reader realize how beautifully the story comes together.  In this case we learn that Watson will truly risk his life for Holmes, and that Holmes will do anything to solve a case.  Yet it’s also an example of the relationship between the two men.  They are not equals, and not exactly friends.  Holmes doubts Watson’s abilities and keeps thing from him.

When Watson realizes that Holmes has been hiding on the moor, he is hurt and frustrated.

    "Then you use me, and yet do not trust me!" I cried with some bitterness. "I think that I have deserved better at your hands, Holmes." (ch 12)

For these reasons, this novel is a prime example of the Sherlock Holmes tome and a contribution both the mystery genre and to literature.

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The Hound of the Baskervilles

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