The Hound of the Baskervilles Discussion

October 23rd, 2008 by hsmart Leave a reply »

To participate in our discussion, please respond to three of the questions below by the end of the school day on Monday the 27th.


1. Why do you think that Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous and most admired characters in literature?

2. In what ways is Dr. Watson the ideal friend and foil for Sherlock Holmes?
Foil- anything that serves by contrast to call attention to another thing’s good qualities.

3. Why does Doyle choose to tell part of the story in letter and journal form? That is, why not simply tell the events directly as Watson is experiencing them?

4. Holmes figures out the identity of the person who wants to kill the Baskervilles because of a clue that we, the readers, do not get access to. What do you make of this literary slight of hand? Should the reader have equal access to all clues? Or is it O.K. that Holmes has more information than we do? What plot device allows Holmes to have more information than us?

5. At the end of the novel it seems that reason and science have triumphed over superstition. Is that really the case? Are their some elements of the story which trouble the neat conclusion? What does that say about our author?


1 comment

  1. Amy Bredehoft says:

    1. I think that Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous and admired characters in literature because he is abnormal. He gets things done, but not in the conventional way. He is very intelligent, humans have always admired intelligence. In a way, most people envy him. How is he able to solve crimes with such conviction? I could not figure out the crime, and here comes Holmes, with the answer, yet again. He’s also kind of goofy. He makes jokes. So he’s charming, funny, smart, and eccentric. Why wouldn’t he be the most admired characters in literature?

    2. Dr. Watson is the ideal foil for Sherlock Holmes because they both have similar backgrounds (detectives) but they react to things differently. With Watson around, you see how differently Holmes thinks in comparison. They really are total opposites in their thought process and even in their body shapes. Watson is more of a conventional thinker with some beliefs in the supernatural (normal now, even more normal in the early 1900s, how else do you explain things?); whereas Holmes believes solely in science and reason and is considered to think “outside the box.”

    3. I feel that Doyle wanted his audience to feel more involved in the case. We read what Holmes is reading, we know what Holmes knows (well, allegedly). If we just went along the story with Watson, we might would know too much and guess the answer more readily. Also, Watson tends to make quick judgments, Holmes just wants the facts. The readers reading “just the facts” gives us an advantage to figure out the crime along with the characters.

    4. Personally, I think that the reader should have equal access to the clues. However, I do admire this “literary slight of hand.” It makes me wonder whether Boyle thought we could figure it out without this important clue (which would be an honor) or if he wanted to give us a surprise ending (more plausible than the former). I think the correct term for the plot device that allows Holmes to have more information is deus ex machina or perhaps a MacGuffin? I think it might be both, actually. Both produce a surprise ending. The deus ex machina gives Holmes the right to withhold the information to tie up all the loose ends. The MacGuffin distracts us with the escaped convict. Surely, we believe, that the convict has to have something to do with the hound. However, it’s not the case.

    5. Yes, reason and science have triumphed over superstition. Something seems to bug me about the neat ending. I think that it just fell into place too easily. However, this is what adds to Holmes’s eccentric-ness. At first glance, it would seem that Doyle believes in science and reason over the supernatural. However, this is not the case. Doyle believes in the supernatural.