How Does Arthur Conan Doyle Lead Readers to Expect Villainy Where It Is Not and Overlook It Where It Exists?

How does Arthur Conan Doyle lead readers to expect villainy where it is not and overlook it where it exists?

Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale ‘The Hound of The Baskervilles’, the most famous of his long stories, and the most gothic of all his books, was inspired by the West Country legend of a mythical hound. It features events of a seemingly bizarre and supernatural nature at every turn and quickly sets up a scenario filled with mystery and intrigue for the reader. The curse of the Baskervilles establishes the theme that continues to run throughout the rest of the narrative - that of the contrast between the natural and supernatural, and also of myth and reality. The narrative instantly reveals the curse of the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’, ‘a great, black beast’ that has plagued the Baskerville family for several centuries. When Dr Mortimer presents Sherlock Holmes with this case it leads Holmes to wrestle with his appliance of scientific logic to such an ostensibly initially supernatural situation. As with any detective story, the misplacement of information is key to add depth and subtleties to the narrative. I aim to show the techniques the Conan Doyle employs through the book.
One way that Conan Doyle creates the illusion of villainy in an essentially innocent situation is through his description of the Notting Hill Murderer, Seldon, who is rumoured to be running wild on the moors. He describes the convict as having ‘small, cunning eyes which peered fiercely from right to left through the darkness’. The physiognomy within the description immediately emphasises the assumption that the convict’s physical appearance matches his personality and temperament; despite the fact he is actually a very benign character who has been lobotomised. This description also expresses a classist sentiment, where the uneducated, and lowly criminal looks like a ‘crafty and savage animal’ and Stapleton, the evil yet noble man, looks just like everyone else. As Selden is presented to...