Hound of the Baskervilles

Arthur Conan Doyle
Summary

Chapters XIV–XV

Summary Chapters XIV–XV

Analysis

When the detectives finally encounter the hound it is not enough that he is glowing and breathing fire, he has to emerge out of a thick fog. Doyle's whole Gothic apparatus, the themes of fantasy and the supernatural, the curse, the manuscript, the manor, all of it has led up to this one moment, when the hound leaps out of the hazy world of imagination and into the detectives' realm of reality. It is a key moment of climax. After the action has subsided, it is really only after they have killed the hound that the detectives get a good look at him. Once again, the detectives encounter a kind of disguised identity, discovering the artifice that made the hound look supernatural. The juxtaposition of the plot-driven climax of the hound's appearance and the thematic climax of its unmasking clearly reveals the ways in which Doyle uses a kind of Gothic, folk tale tradition in service of his story. In the end, mystery is exciting but closure is comforting.

In "A Retrospection," Holmes gives us all the comfort we need and a synopsis of the entire story. He ties up all the loose ends and even claims to have known right from the start that the Stapletons were the ones to blame. Interestingly, though, the wrap up is not that neat, with Henry headed off to calm his nerves on a vacation. Henry and Beryl do not get married and live happily ever after, and it is not even clear that Stapleton is actually dead. It has been suggested that Doyle considered bringing Stapleton back in a later story, but "what a man may do in the future is a hard question to answer."