Wednesday, October 12, 2016

31 Days of Gothic Romance | The Hound of the Baskervilles

We've talked about the big overlap between gothic romance and horror, but a few years after Dracula was published, Arthur Conan Doyle married gothic romance with a whole new genre: the detective novel. It was the author's big return to Sherlock Holmes stories after killing off the character eight years earlier. The Hound of the Baskervilles was meant to be sort of a lost story from before Holmes' death, but that wasn't a satisfying tactic for fans. They continued to put pressure on Doyle until he officially resurrected Holmes two years after Hound.

Set in the wilds of Dartmoor, the action of Hound is instigated by an extremely gothic event in which the noble, but evil lord of Baskerville Hall chases a young woman into the moor with the intention of raping her. As legend has it, he's killed by a giant, spectral hound and his family is forever cursed. That becomes important in Holmes' day when the current master of the Hall is found dead near the enormous footprint of a dog. Holmes is brought in to investigate and to protect the final heir of the Baskervilles.

It's against this backdrop of gothic characters and supernatural legends that Doyle sets his mystery novel. But the gothic elements don't end with Holmes' introduction. Holmes is too logical and competent for us to be afraid as long as he's around, so Doyle wisely writes Holmes out of large chunks of the story. The detective pretends to be busy on other cases, while he's actually lurking behind the scenes the whole time. And this lets us experience the decaying Baskerville Hall through Watson's impressionable eyes. The moor becomes a haunted place of sinister figures and eerie lights, with Watson trying to figure out if the ghosts are real or just part of someone's cruel, but mundane plan.

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