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Solving a murder and preventing another is the major theme, which can then be expanded into the themes of crime, protection, and detection. In the novel, crime is executed by evil (or, as it is believed, supernatural) forces, especially in the form of Stapleton. Driven by a desire for money and power, he is willing to dehumanize those around him to the same state as his specimens. Selden is another, smaller example of crime. He has committed murder as well but for various reasons he does not seem as bad, thus alluding that there are different layers of crime.
Holmes’s main role in the story
is protect good from evil; that is why he has been hired in the first place, to
ensure Sir Henry’s safety from the Baskerville curse. He is also concerned with
Watson, inquiring several times to make sure that his revolver is close at hand.
One of the most dramatic moments for the theme of protection comes when Watson
and Holmes hear the hound pursuing Selden and then, seeing the distorted body,
mistake it for Sir Henry. Holmes is understandably distraught at the thought of
his client dead, knowing that with that the case will be considered a failure
even if they catch Stapleton.
By Holmes’s occupation and the nature of the book, it is clear that detection will be an important theme. It also includes the juxtaposition and overlapping of crime and science, and, to a lesser degree, family lines. The former can be seen primarily in the characters of Holmes, a detective who must be aware of the world as much as any scientist, and Stapleton, a naturalist who committed murder. Family lines play a role because it is the realization of the connection between Stapleton and Sir Henry through bloodlines that provides the last of the information needed to figure out the case (motive).
The phrase “gloom and doom” can be aptly applied to the mood of the novel. The Hall seems a depressing place from the start and the moor in general offers little to combat those feelings with the marshy land, rain, and fog. There is also the threat of the hound, whose occasional cries and sightings instill an unnerving fear in those around.
In the beginning of the book, there is also a sense that Holmes might not be able to solve the case. When his attempts at getting further information are foiled and he himself admits that it is a worthy opponent, the mystery seems overwhelming. However, as Holmes gets a stronger and stronger hold on the case, the main state of emotion is that of hurriedness, the need to solve the case before Stapleton acts again.