Search Menu

Contents

Themes

page 1 of 2

Themes

Themes

Themes

Natural and supernatural; truth and fantasy

As soon as Dr. Mortimer arrives to unveil the mysterious curse of the Baskervilles, Hound wrestles with questions of natural and supernatural occurrences. The doctor himself decides that the marauding hound in question is a supernatural beast, and all he wants to ask Sherlock Holmes is what to do with the next of kin.

From Holmes' point of view, every set of clues points toward a logical, real- world solution. Considering the supernatural explanation, Holmes decides to consider all other options before falling back on that one. Sherlock Holmes personifies the intellectual's faith in logic, and on examining facts to find the answers.

In this sense, the story takes on the Gothic tradition, a brand of storytelling that highlights the bizarre and unexplained. Doyles' mysterious hound, an ancient family curse, even the ominous Baskerville Hall all set up a Gothic- style mystery that, in the end, will fall victim to Holmes' powerful logic.

Doyle's own faith in spiritualism, a doctrine of life after death and psychic powers, might at first seem to contradict a Sherlockian belief in logical solutions and real world answers. Holmes is probably based more on Doyle's scientific training than his belief system. But the struggle for understanding, the search for a coherent conception of the world we live in, links the spiritualist Doyle with his fictional counterpart. Throughout the novel, Holmes is able to come up with far-flung if ultimately true accounts of the world around him, much as his author strove for understanding in fiction and in fact.

Classism and hierarchy

Hound's focus on the natural and supernatural spills over into other thematic territory—the rigid classism of Doyle's milieu. Well-to-do intellectual that he was, Doyle translated many of the assumptions of turn-of- the-century English society into his fiction. The natural and supernatural is one example.

Throughout the story, the superstitions of the shapeless mass of common folk- everyone attributes an unbending faith in the curse to the commoners-are denigrated and, often, dismissed. If Mortimer and Sir Henry have their doubts, it is the gullible common folk who take the curse seriously. In the end, when Watson's reportage and Holmes' insight have shed light on the situation, the curse and the commoners who believed it end up looking silly.

More main ideas from Hound of the Baskervilles

Take the Themes, Motifs & Symbols Quick Quiz

Take a quiz on this section
Take the Themes, Motifs & Symbols Quick Quiz

TAKE THE QUIZ
+
#

THEMES, MOTIFS & SYMBOLS QUICK QUIZ

What does Mortimer believe the hound to be?
Non-existent
A puppet
Take the Themes, Motifs & Symbols Quick Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

Themes, Motifs & Symbols Quick QUIZ

+
Take the Themes, Motifs & Symbols Quick Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

More Help

Previous Next