Wednesday, January 30, 2002

The Hound of Baskervilles Part II-Arthur Conan Doyle

After having read the first eight chapters of this mystery, I could not very well leave the thing unfinished. So, I dilligently signed out the book and finished it off. I have to admit, the last half of the book seemed rather anticlimatic, perhaps because Sherlock Holmes disappears from the book until Chapter 12. Still, I am inclined to visit the library, when I have the time, and check out some more Sherlock Holmes' mysteries. I found them entertaining. I did not suspect that the murder was Stapleton, which made for an interesting twist. It only makes sense, then, that he should be the next in line to inherit the Baskerville estate. He was really quite diabolical to use his wife as bait, the hound as a murder weapon and his career as an entomologist to deceive everyone on the moor. Quite an entertaining read, really. I also took it upon myself to read the foreword and afterword by John Fowles, whose comments speak appropriately enough, to this course. He criticizes Doyle's description of the Grimpen Mire as "romantic-urban nonsense." Having visited the area himself, Fowles describes the deadly bogs of this mystery as nothing more than annoying and very easily spotted. He also takes issue with the inaccurate description of flowers on the moor and claims that no orchids, in fact, grow upon the moor in October. Still, this romanticized version of the moor serves a purpose. For Doyle, the description fits well with the atmosphere of the story and creates an image in the reader's mind of the world of Holmes and Watson. Perhaps the moor was how Doyle envisioned the garden during this period. Perhaps views of his time colored his perception of this area. Or perhaps, the area really did look lke this when Doyle was alive--after all, Fowles visited the moor some seventy years after Doyle first described it. One can take from this the fact that perception colors everything that we see, do, hear, taste, smell and touch. Fiction, in this sense, is not the verbatim description of actual places but places in our imagination. What I would like to know is what kinds of things influenced Doyle? What was it that contributed to his popularity? How did he come up with the idea of Holmes? Is Watson his antithesis? Did he mean for Watson to develop this way? Why did he eventually kill off one of his most popular characters?