The Hound of the Baskervilles | Study Guide

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Hound of the Baskervilles | Chapter 5 : Three Broken Threads | Summary

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Summary

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson arrive at Henry's hotel for lunch. Holmes glances at the register under a pretense and questions the receptionist about the other guests. He concludes that the person who sent the warning to Sir Henry is not staying at his hotel.

As they arrive at Sir Henry's room, the young man discloses that another boot was stolen, this time one of an old pair. Holmes tells Sir Henry about the bearded man who followed them, and Dr. Mortimer mentions that the butler Barrymore at Baskerville Hall has a beard.

As they discuss Sir Charles's will, Holmes learns that several people were named as beneficiaries, among them the bearded butler Barrymore and his wife. The bulk of the estate, however, goes to Sir Henry. Now even more suspicious of Barrymore, Holmes sends a wire to Baskerville Hall, requesting that it be handed only to the butler to ascertain that he is in Devonshire.

Curiously Sir Henry finds his lost new boot under a cabinet. Increasingly convinced that something is afoot, Holmes asks Watson to go to Devonshire to protect Sir Henry. Holmes, himself too busy with other cases to leave London, requests regular reports so he can follow Watson's investigation from afar.

After returning to Baker Street, Holmes receives a cable stating that Barrymore is at Baskerville Hall indeed. Cartwright returns without any cut-up newspapers, and the cabbie shows up, telling Sherlock Holmes that his fare was a bearded man by the name of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is amused, suggesting that the man is sending him a personal message.

Analysis

This chapter reveals that the arsenal of Holmes's investigative powers includes deceit. He lies to the receptionist at the hotel to learn about the other guests at Sir Henry's hotel, and he sends a false cable to find out whether Barrymore is truly at Baskerville Hall. In the pursuit of truth Holmes, the moral center of the novel, stops at nothing. And truly so, for as it later turns out Holmes's trickery involves deceiving his trusted friend Watson.

Despite the many mysterious incidents, the discussion of Sir Charles's will stresses the fact that the eerie case may have a natural motive—money—and that therefore Sir Henry, the sole heir, may be in real danger. Unfortunately the three leads that seemed so promising at the end of the last chapter have turned cold by the end of his one. The bearded man remains elusive, as neither the cabbie nor Cartwright can provide any meaningful information on his identity or whereabouts. However, this is not necessarily cause for concern, as the scientific process of elimination can yield results as well: the cable from Devonshire tells him that Barrymore is likely not the bearded man.

Arthur Conan Doyle shows that although Holmes is the hero of his tale, he is not perfect. He makes mistakes in that he loses a suspect in a chase; he pursues unyielding leads in that chasing down the cut-up newspaper leads nowhere; he is dishonest in that he lies to get information; and he is mocked by a suspect who uses his name as a pseudonym. Particularly the latter adds a personal note to this case, turning it into a match of wits between Holmes and the elusive bearded man.

The cast of characters from the lower classes, Cartwright and the cabbie, introduce a dose of social commentary to the novel. The growing middle class in Victorian England, educated and well respected due to increasing financial power, is willing and able to command those that are socially or economically inferior. For just a few shillings, Holmes expects both Cartwright and the cabbie to abide by his wishes and promptly do as he says. His behavior is eerily reminiscent of a nobleman's dismissive behavior toward his servants and suggests the strict social hierarchy in Victorian England.

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