How Does Arthur Conan Doyle Lead Readers to Expect Villainy Where It Is Not and Overlook It Where It Exists

How does Arthur Conan Doyle lead readers to expect villainy where it is not and overlook it where it exists Arthur Conan Doyle??™s tale ???The Hound of The Baskervilles??™, the most famous of his long stories, and the most gothic of all his books, was inspired by the West Country legend of a mythical hound. It features events of a seemingly bizarre and supernatural nature at every turn and quickly sets up a scenario filled with mystery and intrigue for the reader. The curse of the Baskervilles establishes the theme that continues to run throughout the rest of the narrative – that of the contrast between the natural and supernatural, and also of myth and reality. The narrative instantly reveals the curse of the ???Hound of the Baskervilles??™, ???a great, black beast??™ that has plagued the Baskerville family for several centuries. When Dr Mortimer presents Sherlock Holmes with this case it leads Holmes to wrestle with his appliance of scientific logic to such an ostensibly initially supernatural situation. As with any detective story, the misplacement of information is key to add depth and subtleties to the narrative. I aim to show the techniques the Conan Doyle employs through the book.
One way that Conan Doyle creates the illusion of villainy in an essentially innocent situation is through his description of the Notting Hill Murderer, Seldon, who is rumoured to be running wild on the moors. He describes the convict as having ???small, cunning eyes which peered fiercely from right to left through the darkness??™. The physiognomy within the description immediately emphasises the assumption that the convict??™s physical appearance matches his personality and temperament; despite the fact he is actually a very benign character who has been lobotomised. This description also expresses a classist sentiment, where the uneducated, and lowly criminal looks like a ???crafty and savage animal??™ and Stapleton, the evil yet noble man, looks just like everyone else. As Selden is presented to the reader soon after Watson arrives at Baskerville Hall, an aura of mystery and secrecy, emanating from his character, is immediately associated with the place, emphasising the mystery to come.
Again Conan Doyle creates illusions of villainy in the misinterpretation of Barrymore??™s signaling to Seldon. Initially suspicion is created when the cries of Mrs. Barrymore are heard at night, Mr. Barrymore??™s denial of this event despite his wife seemingly appearing with ???red rimmed eyes??™, exacerbates the suspicion further. After briefly tailing Barrymore, Watson comes to the possible conclusion that he is having an affair with the woman from the village; this account allows the reader to immediately misinterpret the event as benign occurrence that simply adds depth to the narrative rather than a diversion from it. The Barrymore??™s story is elaborated further as it is revealed that they are in fact signaling to Seldon, the convict on the loose, who is Mrs. Barrymore??™s brother. This realization provides the reader with the belief that possibly the mystery had been resolved and creates a placid feeling of relief that the worst is over, again diverting the reader from the real culprit, Stapleton.
One final example of Conan- Doyle employing this technique further is at the very beginning of the book when Dr Mortimer comes to visit Holmes to alert him to the case. He had left a cane from when he had previously dropped by but Holmes was out. The cane was seen to have some sort of bite marks on which Holmes later determined to be a ???curly, haired spaniel??™, this unsubtle link to the title immediately suggests to the reader that Mortimer is a suspicious character despite his seemingly amicable nature, a view that the reader may uphold right until the very end.
However, in contrast, Conan Doyle also lets the reader overlook such villainy, underplaying events as random and irrelevant, despite the fact that they encompass extremely relevant and significant details. For example when he first mentions the theft of one of Sir Henry Baskerville??™s (???a small, alert, dark-eyed man about thirty years of age???) new boots in chapter 3, Holmes dismisses the incident as unrelated and therefore the reader does to, as surely if Sherlock Holmes, whom Conan Doyle created as an omniscient genius who is portrayed as being an incredibly trustworthy protagonist when it comes to fact and logic, ignores something, it is totally irrelevant. However the theft of the boot is actually crucial to the central mystery later on in the story. In this way Conan Doyle convinces the reader to overlook such an event by gaining the reader??™s full trust in Holmes, so he can deceive the reader on such instances.
Conan- Doyle repeats this technique when he first characterizes Stapleton. He is portrayed a loving and kind ???man of science??™ despite his inner villainy, quickly misleading the reader into believing he is a friend not a foe. The fact that he was the one to examine first Sir Charles further reinforces Stapleton??™s outwardly innocent demeanor, he also parallels many of Holmes more logical explanations rather than the more supernatural fanatic ones of Mortimer that the reader is less likely to believe. When Stapleton introduces himself to Watson he declares that, ???Here on the moor we are homely folk???, breaking the previously conceived notion that the moor was just a ???god-forsaken corner of the world??™, but actually a friendly and civilized place.
One final example of Conan Doyle??™s employment of this technique is by removing Holmes from much involvement in the story. This suggests that Holmes has more important things going on and therefore does not need to be present at an equally unimportant event. Although Watson steps into Holmes??™s boots, his power and judgment over the situation seems less potent that Holmes??™s, perhaps reflecting the reader??™s own understanding of Holmes. When Holmes therefore does appear and announces that he wanted Watson to believe that he was in London, not observing the situation unfold inconspicuously on the moors, Watson retorts by saying, ???”Then you use me, and yet you do not trust me!??™ which shows how Holmes has actually always had power over the situation and it is only now that the reader realises he has always been present throughout the tale. For instance when the ???tall, thin man??™ appears on the moor and the food is discovered in the cave, we realise it was Holmes, loitering on the edge of both the narrative and the moor like an omniscient and divine presence.
To conclude, as in all Sherlock Holmes stories, the solution to the mystery is found through Holmes??™s observation of tiny details. As Holmes says to Watson, ???The world is full of clear things which nobody notices.??™ Conan Doyle is easily able to manipulate readers using several varying techniques to make the reader believe in what is not and ignore what is. In this way Doyle makes the ending exciting yet comforting in its closure. He is able to create a detective novel so intricate and elaborate in its narrative that it has been able to find a permanent place in English consciousness, synonymous with the gothic and also the reassuring assertion of logic over the supernatural.