How does the moor play a major role in The Hound of the Baskervilles?
The moor in The Hound of the Baskervilles serves not only as the setting for the story, but as an antagonist as well. The wide open spaces of the moor, combined with the history surrounding Baskerville Hall and the danger of the nearby Great Grimpen Mire, come together to create an eerie setting that helps give life to the legend of the hound. More importantly, the extent of the moor provides Holmes and Watson with sufficient challenges in solving the crime to make the landscape as much an antagonist as Stapleton himself.
The moor surrounding Baskerville Hall is large and dangerous. It is shrouded in legend and mystery, including the tale of Hugo Baskerville's demise by supernatural hound, the ancient ruins, and the menace of the Great Grimpen Mire. These elements result in an eerie setting that provides Stapleton both the geography and atmosphere to put in place his plan to kill Charles Baskerville, and later to try to kill Henry Baskerville. He is able to use the space to train and hide the hound, and he uses the legend to terrify his victims.
But the moor is more than just the setting to Stapleton's plot against the Baskerville heirs. It serves as an antagonist to both Holmes and Watson as they lead their separate investigations. The space itself is one issue, as the expansive areas of the moor and the separation between neighbors results in difficulty finding clues and eyewitness accounts. It also impedes Holmes as he attempts to locate the hound. Finally, the fact that the moor provides ample places to hide, especially among the ancient ruins, is particularly problematic for Watson's investigation as he is sidetracked by the escaped convict who is using the moor to hide.
Thus, in addition to being responsible for the eerie feel and much of the danger in the story, the moor also serves to misdirect Watson and impede Holmes's ability to find clues and put together the solution to the mystery. It serves not just as the setting of the story, but a character in its own right, one that stands in the way of Holmes and Watson and slows their progress.