The environment used in The Hound of the Baskervilles is Dartmoor it is a traditionally eerie and mysterious place, it has been connected with many murders and it is almost the perfect location for a detective story. It is a stereotypical place with random fog, mist and unpredicted storms, if you pair this with the very old fashioned house in the middle of Dartmoor it makes for a great setting for a Sherlock Holmes novel.
The house is described as grand with dark wood panels and cast iron dogs sitting by the fire place, this brings in the history of the house and because it was inherited by Sir Henry Baskerville from his father Charles it had some history that Henry might not know which makes it even more intriguing, after the initial loss of his father Henry went to visit his Baskerville Hall and he then found out about the old and eerie house.
Detective Holmes whom the stereotypical detective image revolves around is also a key factor in this classic novel. If we think of a detective we tend to think of a tweed three piece suit and maybe even a pair of glasses and a pipe, this has obviously changed in a James Patterson novel I have recently read a detective has turned into a much more casual and understated character. In Patterson’s novel it describes a New York detective, Michael Bennett; he uses the same thought process that Holmes does but in a modern day environment. The thought processes of detectives now days are extremely similar to those in the early 20th century even though their attire is different.
The novel The Lore of the Land describes a legend from the Buckfastleigh area in Dartmoor: the writer Theo Brown who wrote the novel The Devon Folklorist says that Richard Capel a powerful and violent squire who lived in a 17th century parish, who was known to be assaulting the village maidens. When he was dying in 1677 his parish was surrounded by hounds (demonic dogs) who let off a horrible howling noise, another writer says that he was out and a pack of whisht hounds chased him across the moor till he dropped dead. This is closely related to the hound mentioned in the novel with a horrible howling noise that it brought fear to the all of the people who heard the beast. Conan Doyle’s beast has “glowing red eyes” that show evil and judging by Theo Brown’s recollection of the word ‘hound’ means demonic hounds and the red eyes show the demon inside a creature’s body.
Holmes is a stereotypical detective, typically he couldn’t prove that Stapleton was the killer because both of the victims died running away from the hound but they weren’t actually killed by the hound. This once again ties back in with the comments made by Theo Brown; the hounds don’t actually kill the victim they run after them until they keel over and die.
For me, if this story was in another location it wouldn’t be half as menacing or mysterious, the landscape of dart moor makes for a really interesting novella and Doyle uses it to his advantage, the hound seems to glide gracefully over the difficult terrain whilst effortlessly catching the unsuspecting human. Obviously every story needs a suspect but in this novel there is a much more sinister creature, a hound, terrifying and every local’s nightmare. The world’s greatest detective has a plan, he finds out that Stapleton is the owner of the hound but he can’t get him because we believe that he is dead in a bog deep in the heart of Dartmoor.
Stapleton is regarded as the black sheep of the family, the main reason behind this is that none of the Baskervilles know that Stapleton is actually part of their family and that he has kept it a secret from them for such a long time. I think he unleashes the dog on his “family” because he is jealous that he hasn’t got anything out of Charles Baskerville’s death.
This novel also uses the idea of the lower classes committing the crime because they may need the money or in the case of Stapleton revenge. Stapleton isn’t a lower class man but he isn’t the wealthiest man alive, he wants revenge on the Baskervilles because he didn’t receive any money from his father Charles. If we add these two points together we quickly become suspicious of all the lower class people in the novel and that the landscape is ideal for an unseen murder.
For me all of the characters, landscapes and details are stereotypical to most detective novels and they have been carefully chosen to make a classic detective novel. Without these vital parts the story The Hound of the Baskervilles wouldn’t be half what it is today.