Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 589

Sherlock Holmes

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Sherlock Holmes, the greatest living detective and therefore the logical person for Dr. Mortimer to approach in the case of Sir Charles Baskerville’s death and the possible danger to his heir. As usual, Holmes dazzles Watson and his visitor with his ability to deduce personal history from observable clues, and he is quick to test the possibility that Mortimer and Sir Henry are being followed. Despite this apparent interest in the case, he pleads prior commitment and sends Watson to Devon in his place. This, it turns out, is a ruse that allows Holmes to spend the next days camped in a neolithic ruin on the moor, where he can observe everyone and everything, while receiving Watson’s reports and initiating investigations into Stapleton’s background. When he finally enters Baskerville Hall and sees the family portrait of Sir Hugo, he realizes instantly from the resemblance that Stapleton is a throwback to the evil Hugo, whose death through a demoniac hound occurred while he was trying to rape the daughter of a neighbor. Holmes arranges that Sir Henry’s visit to the Stapletons will be the occasion to flush out and capture Stapleton.

Dr. John Watson

Dr. John Watson, Holmes’s friend, colleague in detection, and chronicler of his adventures. He reports to Holmes by letter from Baskerville Hall, helps to solve the mystery of Barrymore’s odd behavior, observes the odd behavior of Stapleton and his “sister,” and tracks down Holmes in his hiding place without realizing who he is. He also supplies the information that Stapleton arranged Sir Charles’s presence outside his home on the night that he was frightened to death by the hound.

Sir Henry Baskerville

Sir Henry Baskerville, a Canadian, next in line of succession to Sir Charles. He is concerned enough to welcome Holmes’s help and advice, but he insists on going onto the moor alone to meet Mrs. Stapleton, with whom he is falling in love. In the end, he is the bait Holmes uses to spring his trap on the hound and Stapleton.

Mr. Stapleton

Mr. Stapleton, actually a rival heir who arranged the death of Sir Charles and plans the death of Sir Henry. He is a passionate entomologist and a fearless explorer of the Grimpen Mire, where he keeps the great hound. When he prepares to loose it on a victim, he coats it with phosphorous, which makes the animal glow and appear to breathe fire. In order better to entice Sir Henry, he insists that his wife pretend to be his sister. He dies in the Mire, fleeing from Holmes, Watson, and Inspector Lestrade.

Dr. Mortimer

Dr. Mortimer, a friend of Sir Charles who is concerned that the family curse has overtaken him and will overtake his heir. He brings Holmes the old account of the first appearance of the hound and the death of Sir Hugo.

Mrs. Stapleton

Mrs. Stapleton, who finds her husband’s scheme so distasteful that she tries twice to warn Sir Henry against staying in Baskerville Hall. She is found beaten and bound by Stapleton because she could no longer bear his schemes.

Barrymore

Barrymore and

Mrs. Barrymore

Mrs. Barrymore, Baskerville family servants of long standing. Their odd behavior leads to the discovery that they are supplying food and other necessities to Mrs. Barrymore’s younger brother, Selden, who has escaped from Princetown prison.

Selden

Selden, the Notting Hill Murderer and Mrs. Barrymore’s brother. His escape from prison and his presence on the moor terrify local inhabitants.

Themes and Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515

Sherlock Holmes is a private investigator who operates out of his rooms at 221B Baker Street in London, England. Well-to-do, he takes only the cases that interest him. He is high-strung and restless, and, although he finds a creative emotional outlet in playing the violin, it is often not enough to amuse his troubled mind when he is not on a case. He then injects himself with cocaine. It takes years for his associate, Dr. Watson, to wean him away from his addiction but Watson is ultimately successful.

Holmes is tall and obsessively clean. His voice is "cold, incisive, ironical." A brilliant thinker, his education is at once broad and narrow. For example, although he is able to identify different brands of tobacco at a sniff, he knows nothing about astronomy until Dr. Watson explains to him that the earth orbits the sun.

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes displays his love of the chase; he is delighted at the opportunity to outwit the clever villain and foil his schemes. He is given to dramatic flair; he amazes listeners with his deductions from seemingly slight clues, and he enjoys disguising himself, as though he were an actor. For all his genius, however, he is fallible. In the stories, Professor Moriarty eludes him more than once, and sometimes he fails to adequately protect a client. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, he is at one point convinced that he has allowed the heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, to be killed. This element of uncertainty in Holmes's character enhances the appeal of his stories by allowing for genuine suspense because he occasionally makes mistakes.

I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.
Dr. John Watson is a robust man of action. He meets Holmes when looking for lodgings after serving as a military physician in Afghanistan. His steady temperament balances Holmes's own edgy one. As a physician, Watson's skills often come in handy when people are injured. Intelligent enough to under stand Holmes's genius, robust enough to provide muscle when needed, courageous enough to follow Holmes into any adventure, and unswerving in his loyalty, he is an ideal companion for Holmes. It is Watson who narrates nearly all the tales of Holmes's adventures. He asks the questions that readers want answered and often remains in the dark alongside the readers because of Holmes's infuriating habit of keeping his plans secret until he has seen whether or not they will succeed.

Stapleton is a good example of Conan Doyle's archfiends who prey on the innocent. He is introduced as an eccentric naturalist and a highly respected authority on insects. Of uncertain origin and ancestry, he is described as a "small, slim, clean-shaven, prim-faced man, flaxen-haired and lean-jawed, between thirty and forty years of age." Physically unimpressive, he seems too frail and too naive to be a villain, but his mind is a keen one. He has plotted carefully, using the legend about a curse on the Baskervilles to further his devious designs.

Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 887

Sherlock Holmes is tall and lean. He is obsessively clean; when he hides in the Grimpen Mire, he not only arranges for supplies of food but for daily clean clothes and opportunities to bathe, as well. His voice is "cold, incisive, ironical." A brilliant thinker, his education is at once large and narrow. Able to identify different brands of tobacco at a sniff, he knows nothing about astronomy until Dr. Watson explains to him that the Earth orbits the Sun. Holmes is obsessed with the intellectual excitement of criminal detection and studies only that which may be of practical value in his investigations. In The Hound of the Baskerviltes, he displays his love of the chase; he is delighted that the villain is, like himself, brilliant, because he takes joy in the contest that the villain's schemes provide. He is given to dramatic Hair; he amazes listeners with his deductions from seemingly slight clues, and he enjoys disguising himself, as though he were an actor. For all his genius, however, he is fallible. In the stories. Professor Moriarty eludes him more than once, and sometimes he fails to adequately protect a client. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, he is at one point convinced that he has allowed Sir Henry Baskerville to be killed. This element of uncertainty in his character enhances the appeal of his stories by allowing for genuine suspense because he makes mistakes. Stapleton — cold, calculating, and ruthless — is a match for Holmes and nearly defeats the detective.

Sherlock Holmes is a private investigator who operates out of his rooms at 221B Baker Street, in London, England. Well-to-do, he takes cases that interest him, while rejecting those that do not. He is highly energetic and restless; although he finds a creative outlet in playing the violin, it is often not enough to amuse his troubled mind when he is not on a case. He then injects himself with cocaine. It takes years for Dr. Watson to wean him away from his addiction but Watson is ultimately successful.

Dr. John Watson is a robust man of action. He meets Holmes when looking for lodgings after serving as a military physician in Afghanistan. His steady temperament balances Holmes's own edgy one. Intelligent enough to understand Holmes's genius, robust enough to provide muscle when needed, courageous enough to follow Holmes into any adventure, and unswerving in his loyalty, he is an ideal companion for Holmes. As a physician, his skills often come in handy when people are hurt. It is Watson who tells nearly all of the tales of Holmes's adventures. He is the readers' representative, asking the questions that readers would want answered and often remaining in the dark with the readers because of Holmes's infuriating habit of keeping his plans secret until he has seen whether or not they will succeed.

Many critics have pointed out the similarities between Holmes and Watson and their creator Arthur Conan Doyle. In real life, Conan Doyle sometimes employed detection techniques similar to those of Holmes to solve mysterious crimes. In the most famous such case, he proved that George Edalji, a lawyer, had been wrongfully convicted of a crime he could not have committed. Conan Doyle used such evidence as Edalji's astigmatism and the difference between the mud of roads and that of fields to demonstrate beyond doubt that Edalji was innocent and to expose the real criminal — a feat of detection worthy of Holmes. In addition, Dr. Watson shares characteristics with Conan Doyle. Both are robust men who were physically active for most of their lives. Both are physicians who served overseas. The tall and thick-necked Watson fits the description of Conan Doyle himself. Even so, readers should not take the similarities between the characters and the author beyond the superficial. Both Holmes and Watson are well-imagined figures with traits all their own. For instance, Conan Doyle did not share Holmes's interest in music or the detective's drug addiction, nor did Conan Doyle share Watson's military experience. Both characters reflect Conan Doyle's vision of modern knight-errantry, in which people use their expertise to help others out of trouble.

Stapleton is a good example of Conan Doyle's archfiends who prey on the innocent. Having changed his name at least twice, he is a distant relative of Sir Henry Baskerville. He is a "small, slim, clean-shaven, prim-faced man, flaxen-haired and lean-jawed, between thirty and forty years of age," and he is an eccentric naturalist who is a respected expert on insects. Physically unimpressive, he seems too frail and too innocent to be a villain, but his mind is a keen one. He has plotted carefully, using an old legend about a curse on the Baskervilles to commit murder without laying a hand on his victims.

He brings a huge hound to the Grimpen Mire and lets it loose at night on the moors. He covers its lips and the area around its eyes with phosphorus, making it glow in the dark. The hound frightens neighbors who see it, lending credence to the old legend that because of the sins of Hugo Baskerville in the 1600s, a hound from hell wreaks vengeance on his descendants. The hound is an eerie figure that keeps much of the narrative of The Hound of the Baskervilles poised between the supernatural and the everyday.

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