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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Creates an Oppressive Atmosphere Which Overshadows the Villainy of Stapleton

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Q. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creates an oppressive atmosphere which overshadows the villainy of Stapleton. Explain.

A. Hound of the Baskervilles, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is a fin de siècle work of fiction that carried characteristics of both Gothic and Detective fiction. Sir Arthur has allowed the readers to explore through the elements of two completely different and contrasting settings present in the novel, taking good care of not infusing the two. The book was also published in the time when technology came upfront, giving humans all around the globe a hope for revolutionary transition. The famous Sherlock Holmes, is the human personification of London, who inhibits traits of logic, rationalism, science, and modernity. Holmes is introduced to a case of “supernatural” diabolic entity, rooted deep into the superstitions of rural England, which is handled by Holmes brilliant and patient work of rationality.

Sir Arthur has been extraordinary in giving us a perfect setting for such a Gothic story, creating an atmosphere which feels more sinister and ghastly than the evil (or, the villain) itself. The different settings of the novel have proved more than just literary elements, giving a humanly face to all the three places described in the novel. Dartmoor and the Grimpen Mire have been given the traits of a frightful villain, giving more depth to the setting of the novel. The moor stands as a symbol of danger and tragedy in the book. The description of the bleak landscape of moor provides a gloomy, and rather shady impression of it right from the beginning. While describing moor as a deserted and isolated place, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes, ‘Grey, melancholy hill, with a strange jagged summit’, where grey is a rather bland, cold, and sad colour, addressing the nature of the moor. The author also uses ‘Forbidden moor’ in order to explain the absolute remoteness of the moor, also being impermissible due to its horrific feels.

The author uses plenty of contrast in the description of the inside of Baskerville Hall, but it still comes across as sinister. Sir Henry’s initial reaction on entering the Baskerville Hall is not very pleasant. He says, ‘My word, it isn’t a very cheerful place’, continuing further, ‘I suppose one can tone down to it, but I feel a bit out of the picture at present. I don’t wonder that my uncle got a little jumpy if he lived all alone in such a house as this. However, if it suits you, we will retire early to-night, and perhaps things may seem more cheerful in the morning.’ Sir Arthur uses objects to create an uncomfortable environment in the mansion, suitable to play the plot of Gothic-turned-Science fiction, other than it being one of the finest works of detective genre. Sir Arthur writes, ‘The door clanged heavily behind us’, giving us an impression of a haunted mansion by the use of ‘clanging door’, also trying to let us know the dark silence that is present in the mansion. Another example of his use of imagery to make us feel uncomfortable is when he says, ‘numerous candles did something to remove the sombre impression’, implicating the ‘sombre’ and dark atmosphere filled in the mansion. Sir Arthur also uses simile to further strengthen his effect of indirect eeriness in the novel.

Jack Stapleton, the antagonist of the novel, was originally a rather innocent looking former schoolmaster fond of chasing butterflies on the moors and pursuing antiquarian interests. Having a reputation of a teacher and naturalist, Stapleton is not a figure who transmits negative and unpleasant energy in the novel until the truth is revealed. It’s not for long that we think of Stapleton as nothing more than a harmless Victorian scientist and gentleman like Doctor Mortimer. Mr. Stapleton is gradually shown to as a queer and short tempered man, hiding something fishy under his ‘net’. Dr. Watson, after contemplating his real identity says, ‘All of my unspoken instincts, my vague suspicions, suddenly took shape and centred upon the naturalist. In that impassive, colourless man, with his straw net and butterfly-net, I seemed to see something terrible – a creature of infinite patience and craft, with a smiling face and a murderous heart’. Though being morally as corrupt as any other criminal, the image construct of Jack Stapleton is not as haunting and deadly as of a typical criminal. The description given by Dr. Watson fits acutely well to the character of Stapleton, who although being a murderer, hasn’t been able to be called a frightful figure.

Ultimately, Conan Doyle makes the moor, the hound, and Baskervilles Hall as symbols in his book. The moor symbolizes danger and tragedy, the hound represents the unknown, a constant threat, and also Sherlock's biggest enemy. The Baskervilles Hall symbolizes the miserable and depressing mood of the place. Sir Arthur has succeeded by making an atmosphere which itself brings fear to the reader, oppressing the rather mild character of our villain, Jack Stapleton.

Q. Comment on the nature of criminal’s identity in ‘The Woman in White’.

A. The Woman in White, written by Wilkie Collins, was the key book in establishing what became known as ‘sensation fiction’: breathless and deviously plotted novels that combined domestic Realism, the simple moral universe of theatre melodrama, and the thirst for gruesome and spectacular crimes. Published in the mid 19th century, it dealt with the theme of melodramatic identity crises, which were all a rage in the Victorian fiction. The Victorian writers were intrigued with the plotlines like amnesia, mistaken identity, dream of reinventing identity, and the concept of doubles. The mid 19th century was the time of rapid transition when people started asking questions about their identity, that who they were and what they could become. With political and social reform at issue throughout much of the Victorian era, it is not surprising that class identity is a frequent theme of sensation fiction. The Woman in White portrays the social rise of Walter Hartright. While beginning the narrative as a poor drawing teacher, Hartright is, at the novel’s end, situated within the gentry and father to the heir of Limmeridge House.

The Woman in White is a novel whose plot revolves around the idea of mistaken identity, imposters, a snatched inheritance, and a staged ‘death’. Collin’s 'criminals' are, in many ways, stereotypical figures; Count Fosco is suitably ghoulish with his white mice, arrogance and slimy superficiality, whilst Sir Percival's polite façade fails to conceal the greed, coldness and cruelty that even the dog manages to detect. Anne Catherick is well suited to the

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