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Holmes represents several things from his role as the great detective. He is the ever practical man, not even caring about the rotation of the Earth, since it does not affect the case. Amidst widespread belief in curses and the supernatural, Holmes is really the only one who never doubts the pursuit of a rational cause. In this capacity, Holmes represents the world of explanations, of order, logic, and science.
Out of awe and appreciation
for his skills as a detective, Holmes is also seen as a provider of security.
Watson mentions several times that he wishes the detective were there, instead
of back in London. Sir Henry also wants Holmes to be around, and so both men are
relieved when Holmes is found nearby. He has a reputation of being able to handle
difficult cases and prevent, or at least lessen, danger, with good reason. He
is the one people turn to, as Dr. Mortimer did, when they do not know what else
Finally, Holmes represents goodness. He seeks and finds the truth, and brings justice in driving evil to its demise (Stapleton’s death). However, this underlying theme, so familiar in literature, of good victorious over bad, is not always clear cut because of the complexity of the characters and plot. One example of this is Holmes’s deception of Watson.
Though Watson plays a part in the case, he is primarily significant as the narrator of the story. Since he is, like most readers, not a detective, he is able to relate information as the average person would likely see it. This is beneficial because it keeps the novel suspenseful, much more so than if we knew that Holmes suspected the Stapletons from the start.
Watson demonstrates a much more sudden, emotion-based way of thought than Holmes. His reports include the psychological feel of the place and speculations on the character of various people that are more significant for the literary purpose than the case. He pursues Selden with Sir Henry despite the danger in trying to confront such a desperate man. He waits with his revolver for the stranger, and when it turns out to be Holmes who explains the situation to him, he is all set to accuse Stapleton in person. Even Watson’s surprise at some of Holmes’s deductions at the beginning of the book indicates this less rigid thinking.
Mr. Jack Stapleton
First of all, Stapleton represents the corrupting influence of money and power. He killed Sir Charles, attempted to do the same to Sir Henry, and likely committed several other crimes, all in the pursuit of an inheritance and quick money. Stapleton even had to leave South America because of stealing money.
Along with that is the theme of dehumanization. In the face of material goods, Stapleton treats everyone from his wife to his victims with the same disregard. To illustrate the point, he comes to collect “Miss” Stapleton in a manner similar to his pursuit of insects. Even the hound, already a vicious creature, becomes even wilder in his hands.
Perhaps the most complex and important part about Stapleton is the interplay within his character of crime and science (making him an interesting foil for Holmes, who is also a combination of those). On the one hand, he is a serious entomologist, but on the other hand, he uses what he gains from this to aid in his murders. Also, throughout the book, there are connections between the net Stapleton uses for his insects and the ones Holmes is using to catch him, as well as the one between his collections and the box of cases.
As the antagonist, Stapleton is essential to the plot and outcome of the story. It is his crime that initially intrigues Holmes, and his continued skill at executing it, that holds the detective’s interest.
The Baskerville family
This old line provides the contrast to Holmes when it comes to belief in the supernatural. They take the curse very seriously, to the point that previously Dr. Mortimer suggested Sir Charles get away from the moor for awhile and Sir Henry’s normally independent nature is tamed by Holmes’s warnings and the sound of the hound. Baskerville Hall itself fits in well with the rest of the moor, as still connected with the old ways of thought.
Furthermore, there is the matter of family connections. Stapleton is remarkably similar in attitude and appearance to his father Rodger and the wicked Hugo. This suggests that while the property and money are passed down, certain other things are as well. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is also in reference to these bad relatives.
Dr. Mortimer, The Barrymores
Dr. Mortimer is important in that he brings the case to Holmes and relays all the background facts. Though his character continues to appear intermittently, it is at the beginning that he has the greatest impact on the plot. Also, his cane, when deductions are made from it, provides a good introduction to Holmes’s methods.
The Barrymores are similarly important characters in the plot. Selden, and their mysterious activities dealing with him, makes for a nicely misleading subplot, drawing Watson’s suspicions to them for awhile.