The Hound of the Baskervilles | Study Guide

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Course Hero, "The Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide," May 4, 2017, accessed December 10, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hound-of-the-Baskervilles/.

The Hound of the Baskervilles | Plot Summary

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Summary

The Case

Dr. Watson's and Sherlock Holmes's speculations about a cane left at Baker Street introduces the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes as well as the identity of a country doctor visiting London to seek Holmes's help. After Sir Charles Baskerville's death, Dr. Mortimer is in London to pick up the sole heir of the estate, Sir Henry Baskerville. Sir Charles's death of an apparent heart attack seems suspicious to Dr. Mortimer, as his facial expression suggested that he died in horror. According to a legend the Baskervilles have been haunted by a hellhound who, generations ago, mauled and killed an ancestor known for his debauchery. Dr. Mortimer muses that perhaps Sir Charles fell prey to a hound, too, as howls had been heard over the nearby moor. Holmes rejects the theory as a fairy tale born of superstition. When Dr. Mortimer discloses that he found footprints of a huge hound next to the body, Holmes is curious and agrees to meet with Sir Henry.

As the son of Sir Charles's middle brother, Sir Henry is the only known heir. As Dr. Mortimer and his charge arrive at Baker Street the next morning, Sir Henry reveals that he has received a warning at the hotel. It was a note comprised of words mostly cut from a newspaper. Examining the piece of paper, Holmes creates a profile of the likely author. Sir Henry also mentions that one of his brand-new boots is missing. Despite such ominous and curious events, Sir Henry is determined to take possession of Baskerville Hall. When Sir Henry and Dr. Mortimer leave Baker Street, Holmes and Watson follow them, noticing that a cab with a bearded man follows them. They pursue the cab, but the man escapes.

At lunch Dr. Mortimer reveals that the butler at Baskerville Hall, Barrymore, has a beard. They find the missing boot in Sir Henry's hotel room, but now another single boot, this time one of an old, worn brown pair, is gone.

Holmes agrees to take the case but claims that he cannot accompany Sir Henry to Baskerville Hall as other cases keep him in London. Instead he sends Dr. Watson to accompany him with instructions to never leave Sir Henry's side and to send back detailed reports.

The Scene

Upon arrival in Devonshire, Watson learns that a criminal, Selden, has escaped from prison and is presumed to be hiding in the moor. As they travel from the train station to Baskerville Hall, the gloomy moor slowly replaces the beautiful countryside. They arrive after dark at Baskerville Hall, a sinister and depressing manor, where Barrymore greets them.

During that first night Watson hears a woman cry. Watson notices Mrs. Barrymore's red and swollen eyes, yet Barrymore claims she wasn't crying. This lie and the fact that Barrymore has a beard like the man who followed Sir Henry in London makes Watson suspicious.

Watson investigates the land and the neighbors of Baskerville Hall. He runs into Jack Stapleton, a naturalist who lives in nearby Merripit House. They talk about Sir Charles's death and the dangers of the Grimpen Mire, a stretch of mire that can swallow man or beast, when they are interrupted by a howl. Stapleton dismisses the legend of the hound and suggests that the sound comes from a rare bird. As he pursues a butterfly with his net, his sister, Beryl Stapleton, an exotic beauty, arrives. She falsely assumes that Watson is Sir Henry and urges him to leave. When Stapleton returns and introduces them properly, she does not admit her warnings to her brother.

When Sir Henry does meet Beryl Stapleton, he is smitten. Watson follows them as they meet for a walk and watches Sir Henry woo her. Stapleton shows up and reacts with what Watson considers undue anger, given she is his sister and Sir Henry is a good catch. Later that day Stapleton arrives at Baskerville Hall and apologizes for his outburst and invites Sir Henry over for dinner.

The next night Watson hears footsteps outside his room and catches a glimpse of Barrymore carrying a candle and disappearing into a room. The next morning Watson investigates the room and realizes that it has a direct view of the moor. He surmises that Barrymore is having an affair and goes to the room to signal his lover for a rendezvous. Watson shares his discovery with Sir Henry, and the two plot a stakeout. On the second night they follow Barrymore into the room and confront him. The commotion summons his wife, and she admits that they are signaling the escaped convict Selden, who is her younger brother. They supply him with food and Sir Henry's hand-me-down clothing. Henry and Watson go out after the convict to bring him to justice, but he eludes them. Instead they notice the tall silhouette of a stranger on the tip of a knoll.

Barrymore reveals that the day after Sir Charles's death he found a burned letter from a woman with the initials L.L., asking for an appointment with Sir Charles on the very night and at the time he died. As Watson goes to investigate the mysterious man on the knoll, he runs into Dr. Mortimer, who suggests that L.L. might be Laura Lyons, a woman living in nearby Coombe Tracey. When Watson interviews her, she admits that she did write the letter and asked for the appointment because Sir Charles was going to help her finance her divorce. However, she unexpectedly received help from someone else and didn't keep the appointment, yet never canceled it.

On his way back to Baskerville Hall, Watson runs into Mr. Frankland, who scans the moor with his telescope in search for the escaped convict. He believes he has located him by watching a young boy he assumes is providing the convict with food. Watson realizes that Frankland has not found the convict but the mysterious man on the knoll. Just then they see the boy marching toward the moor. Watson follows the boy's trail toward the ruins of Neolithic stone huts, where he suspects the mysterious man to be hiding. Although the area is deserted, Watson finds signs of habitation, among them the small bundle of food the boy was carrying and a note reporting that he, Watson, has gone to Coombe Tracey. Realizing that he is the target of the mysterious man, he hunkers down to wait, his pistol drawn.

The Silent Partner

The wait is soon over when none other than Sherlock Holmes appears. He reveals that he has been hiding all this time and pursuing his own investigation. Watson, glad to see him but dumbfounded at his deceit, listens as Holmes discloses that Stapleton and his sister are actually husband and wife. Holmes is sure that Stapleton is the killer, yet he needs more time to find a motive and prove it.

Their conversation is interrupted by a terrible scream. They run toward the sound and discover the body of Selden, Barrymore's brother-in-law, who is dressed in Sir Henry's discarded tweed suit. Minutes later they encounter Stapleton, who supposedly came out to the moor to look for Sir Henry, who did not show up for their dinner appointment.

Back at Baskerville Hall, Holmes examines the family portraits and notices a striking resemblance between Sir Hugo and Stapleton. He concludes that Stapleton must be a relative trying to eliminate heirs so he can claim the Baskerville fortune for himself. Holmes hatches a plan to prove his theory. Claiming that he and Watson are returning to London, he tells Sir Henry to go to the dinner at Merripit House by himself and return home afterward by crossing the moor on foot. Sir Henry agrees to follow the instructions.

The Big Reveal

In reality Holmes summons Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade and visits Laura Lyons. Upset to hear that Stapleton is married, she confesses that Stapleton had promised to marry her, dictated the letter to Sir Charles, but then told her she didn't need to keep the appointment.

They go to the train station to pick up Lestrade, proceed to the moor, and lie in wait for Sir Henry. Fog moves in and obscures the view of the path Sir Henry will take. When Sir Henry does emerge from the fog, they hear the pounding of paws of a large hound in pursuit. He is seemingly spewing fire from his mouth. The hound emerges from the fog and attacks Sir Henry. Holmes and Watson shoot and kill the hound before Sir Henry gets hurt. Watson discovers phosphorous around the dog's mouth, meant to make the dog look hellish and to evoke the legend of the hound haunting the Baskervilles.

Returning to Merripit House, they find Stapleton's wife bound and gagged. Due to the fog they delay pursuing Stapleton until the next day, when Beryl Stapleton leads them to his hideout in the Grimpen Mire. Along the way they find Sir Henry's missing boot. The trail of footprints ends abruptly, suggesting that Stapleton was sucked into the mire.

Back at Baker Street weeks later, Sir Henry and Dr. Mortimer visit on their way to begin a voyage meant to help restore Sir Henry's health. Holmes provides the missing details of the case. Stapleton was Rodger Baskerville's son. He married Beryl Garcia, a Costa Rican beauty. Due to embezzlement charges, they had to leave South America and came to England, where they opened a school, which eventually failed. When Stapleton heard about his potential claims to an inheritance, he hatched a plan to get rid of the heirs standing in his way. He trained a hound to evoke the Baskerville legend. Sir Henry's first boot was taken for its scent, but it was too new, so the second, older boot, was taken. Stapleton set the hound on the escaped convict, mistaking him for Sir Henry because he wore his old tweed suit. Beryl Stapleton turned against her husband to save Sir Henry. The novel ends with Watson and Holmes deciding to grab some dinner before going to the theater.

The Hound of the Baskervilles Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction

Introduction

1 Holmes and Watson learn about the hound of the Baskervilles.

Rising Action

2 Sir Henry receives a letter warning him of danger.

3 Holmes and Watson discover someone following Sir Henry.

4 Watson meets Beryl Stapleton, who warns him to leave.

5 Barrymore signals the convict when he has food for him.

6 Watson finds Holmes hiding in the stone huts.

7 Holmes sees a resemblance between Stapleton and Sir Hugo.

8 Holmes and Watson visit Laura Lyons.

Climax

9 Holmes and Watson save Sir Henry from the hound.

Falling Action

10 Stapleton escapes after he realizes his plan has failed.

11 Clues indicate Stapleton drowned in the mire.

Resolution

12 Holmes wraps up the loose ends of the case.

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