The Hound of the Baskervilles | Study Guide

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Hound of the Baskervilles | Chapter 13 : Fixing the Nets | Summary

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Summary

Holmes and Watson admire Stapleton for his composure when he realized that Sir Henry is still alive. Watson wants to take him down right there and then, but Holmes reiterates that they cannot yet prove anything. To do so they must use Sir Henry as bait.

Back at Baskerville Hall Holmes catches a glimpse of Sir Hugo's portrait and recognizes an eerie resemblance between him and Stapleton. Clearly he has hit upon the motive: Stapleton must be a relative who stands to inherit the Baskerville estate if Sir Henry is dead.

Holmes and Watson claim that they are returning to London and that Sir Henry must dine with Stapleton on his own. Henry is alarmed, but he promises to do exactly as Holmes asks: he will go to the dinner, send his driver home, and after dinner walk back to Baskerville Hall alone across the moor.

In reality Holmes and Watson go to Laura Lyons for another interrogation. When they reveal that Stapleton is married, she confesses all. Stapleton told her what to write in the letter to Sir Charles. Yet before she kept the appointment, Stapleton told her he'd pay for the divorce himself and discouraged her from meeting Sir Charles.

Holmes receives a cable stating that Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade will arrive soon.

Analysis

The eerie family resemblance between Stapleton and Sir Hugo reveals the final layer of mistaken identity: Stapleton is a Baskerville, most likely the son of the youngest of Sir Charles's siblings, Sir Rodger Baskerville, a womanizing drunkard. On the one hand this discloses the very mundane motive to the crime—money—and proves that Sir Charles did not fall prey to the curse that supposedly haunts the Baskervilles. Stapleton, not the hellhound, killed Sir Charles to inherit his estate. Yet on the other hand the connection between Stapleton and Sir Hugo Baskerville—and hence the curse—goes far deeper than just physical resemblance. Like Sir Hugo, Stapleton does not stop at anything to get what he wants. As with Sir Hugo, who abducted the maiden and chased her in a pursuit that led to both their deaths, Stapleton does not shy away from murder.

Holmes's brilliant observation renders the superstition powerless by proving that man, not beast, is responsible for Sir Charles's death but reintroduces the suspicion that somehow the legend was involved after all.

Using Sir Henry as bait for Stapleton just as Stapleton used Laura Lyons as bait for Sir Charles, Holmes uses a ruse to catch Sir Charles's murderer. Doyle takes that comparison even further by using terminology that compares the two. Homes is casting a net much like Stapleton uses a net to catch butterflies. Suddenly the earlier scene in which the then-elusive bearded man, who as we now know was Stapleton, used Sherlock Holmes's name takes on new significance. The novel suggests that detective and perpetrator are on a par. Like mirror images of each other, detective and perpetrator use disguises, ruses, and lies as means to an end.

Clearly it is the end they pursue that distinguishes the two. Stapleton is a criminal. Holmes on the other hand, although not an official representative of the law, follows the law in spirit. When he brings in the Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade, Holmes not only signals that the mystery of the Hound of the Baskervilles will soon be solved but he also signals that law and order will be restored.

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