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The Hound of the Baskervilles | Study Guide

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Hound of the Baskervilles | Quotes


I believe you have eyes in the back of your head.

Dr. Watson, Chapter 1

Speaking to Sherlock Holmes, Watson expresses awe at the detective's cleverness and his superior observation skills. Nothing escapes the detective, not even things that seemingly happen behind his back.


Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.

Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 1

Speaking to Watson, Sherlock Holmes asserts his intellectual superiority, while at the same time acknowledging that some of his genius depends on Watson's contribution. They are a team, yet their relationship is unequal: they are master and assistant, detective and sidekick.


The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 3

Holmes describes his methods of observation as a key to understanding the world, while at the same time suggesting that he alone knows how to use that key, observing and correctly interpreting clues from the physical world to uncover a meaning that remains hidden to everyone but Holmes.


The devil's agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not?

Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 3

Holmes rejects the legend of the hound of the Baskervilles as a superstitious fairy tale, suggesting that the supposed reappearance of the hound on the night of Sir Charles's death may not have supernatural origins at all. He thus foreshadows and sums up the novel's ending that reveals that the supposed hellhound is a mix between bloodhound and mastiff. The supernatural has a very natural, even scientific explanation.


I seem to have walked right into the thick of a dime novel.

Sir Henry Baskerville, Chapter 4

Sir Henry's remark dismissively rejects Sherlock Holmes's suggestion that he is being followed and may be in danger as better suited to a cheap novel than to the brilliant mind of a detective. Ironically, Sir Henry is in danger, yet he is indeed a character in a dime novel. Arthur Conan Doyle uses dramatic irony to poke fun at himself and his characters.


We balance probabilities and choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the imagination, but we have always some material basis on which to start our speculation.

Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 4

Holmes describes the scientific method he adheres to, which uses sensory perception and analysis to draw a conclusion. When Dr. Mortimer criticizes Holmes's seemingly far-fetched conclusions as guesswork, Holmes concedes that while any one clue could allow several interpretations, once clues are seen together it is possible to determine the most probable connection between them, based on prior knowledge.


Behind the peaceful and sunlit country-side there rose ... the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills.

Dr. Watson, Chapter 6

The appearance of the moor on the horizon marks Watson and Sir Henry's move from London to Devonshire County. It symbolizes the transition from the orderly, safe, and peaceful world of reason to the impenetrable, treacherous, and untamed world of mystery and superstition.


There could not have been a greater contrast between brother and sister, for Stapleton was neutral tinted ... while she was darker than any brunette whom I have seen.

Dr. Watson, Chapter 7

Describing the differences in the physical appearance of the Stapletons, Watson inadvertently and without realizing it offers an early clue to the fact that they are not brother and sister but husband and wife. The signs are out there plain to see, yet their significance only becomes evident when additional clues turn up and are taken into account.


There was thrust out an evil yellow face, a terrible animal face, all seamed and scored with vile passions.

Dr. Watson, Chapter 9

Watson describes the face of the escaped convict, likening it to that of an animal, suggesting that the man's criminal character and murderous instincts shows in his physical appearance. Facial features have meaning; they are signposts pointing to the criminal's murderous instincts.


What passion of hatred can it be which leads a man to lurk in such a place at such a time!

Dr. Watson, Chapter 10

Watson describes the mysterious man on the tor as a potentially dangerous and hateful man. This directly contradicts Selden's earlier description of him as a gentlemen. It turns out that Selden's description was far more accurate, for the mysterious man is none other than Sherlock Holmes. This suggests that Watson does not always draw accurate conclusions. Watson does not seem to have what it takes to catch the significance of a clue.


All my unspoken instincts, my vague suspicions, suddenly took shape and centered upon the naturalist ... a creature of infinite patience and craft, with a smiling face and a murderous heart.

Dr. Watson, Chapter 12

Sherlock Holmes has just revealed to Watson that the Stapletons are husband and wife, not brother and sister. Watson is suddenly aware this small, seemingly weak Stapleton was the force behind the mystery and a danger to be reckoned with. Moreover, once again the reader sees emotions and instincts can sometimes understand a situation better than scientific scrutiny.


In order to have my case well rounded and complete, I have thrown away the life of my client.

Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 12

Holmes expresses his great sense of guilt when he and Watson mistake the body of Selden as that of Sir Henry. He chastises himself for being more interested in creating an airtight case against the perpetrator than making sure his client is safe. This suggests Sherlock Holmes is not infallible after all. On the other hand, he is not a cold man of reason but capable of strong emotions.


Never ... could anything ... more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.

Dr. Watson, Chapter 14

Watson's description of the very moment at which they finally see the hound of the Baskervilles marks the climax of the novel. The moment the hound appears from the fog, the legend becomes reality. Fact and fiction meet, superstition becomes fact, the line between reasonable judgment and irrational fear blurs. The nightmare-like quality of that moment is intensified by the thick fog that surrounds the ghostlike apparition.


If he was vulnerable he was mortal, and if we could wound him we could kill him.

Dr. Watson, Chapter 14

Moments after the hellhound jumps out of the fog into the clear moonlight, Watson experiences a moment of clarity. Having shot and wounded the supposedly spectral hellhound suggests that they are not dealing with a ghostlike apparition after all, but a mortal creature that can be defeated. Realizing that, Watson applies simple logic, forms a plan of action, and goes about executing the plan.


The past and the present are within the field of my inquiry, but what a man may do in the future is a hard question to answer.

Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 15

Sherlock Holmes's answer to the question how Stapleton might have claimed his fortune after getting rid of Sir Charles and Sir Henry suggests that life harbors mysteries even Sherlock Holmes cannot solve. Holmes's empirical methods apply to the physical world that can be unlocked by sensory perception and the past, which can be studied to acquire knowledge. He can neatly wrap up every loose end of a case, yet the future remains unknown and cannot be penetrated other than with speculation. Their accuracy can only be determined once the future has become the present or the past.

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