Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baskervilles Read-Along: The Curse of the Baskervilles (Ch. 2)

The very opening of this chapter cracks me up.  I even have "hee hee" written in the margin beside them because those first few lines never fail to make me giggle.  Sherlock Holmes is showing off again, but Dr. Mortimer doesn't make any of the usual "how astounding!" or "you amaze me!" statements to show he's impressed.  He's all matter-of-fact, just asking, "How can you say that, sir?"  I like to imagine this amused Holmes a bit too.

Anyway, this chapter is mostly taken up with the reading of two documents, the legend of the Baskerville family curse and a newspaper account of Sir Charles Baskerville's recent death.  It's an interesting way to present a case, isn't it?  It's not Dr. Mortimer's case.  He's not a Baskerville; he's presumably in no danger himself.  But his friend has died, and he thinks something mysterious is going on, so he brings the problem to Sherlock Holmes.

It's not really a very usual case for Holmes.  There's no evidence of murder.  There's a lot of talk about supernatural things, and at the moment, I can't think of any other canon adventure that deals with anything remotely supernatural.  Can you?

Anyway, this chapter ends with one of my favorite lines ever, and such a magnificent one for a final line, don't you think?  "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!" (p. 587).  We're out of legends and speculation, and into reality where animals leave footprints.  And yet, something about that statement is chilling.

Possible Discussion Questions:

In the manuscript, Hugo Baskerville writes, "that which is clearly known hath less terror than that which is but hinted at and guessed" (p. 583).  Do you think that has some bearing on why the mystery genre has remained so popular for so long?  Even on why Sherlock Holmes is such an enduring character?

(Stay tuned for my interview with my favorite living author!  I should have it ready to post tomorrow...)

8 comments:

  1. I didn't notice Mortimer's reaction, but that is amusing! I liked the part when Holmes "sighed with resignation" or something like that when Mortimer began to read his "short" document. Obviously Holmes knew it wasn't that short!

    People are curious; therefore they would be drawn to what they don't know, or mysteries. Also, Holmes is a mystery in himself sometimes. (When he says "Perhaps you've read my paper on *some rare subject like Chinese tatoos*") How does he know all this stuff!!

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    1. Hee, yes, he has "an air of resignation." And I agree that he can be a mystery himself, with his "strangely retentive memory for trifles," as he put it in "The Adventure of the Lion's Man."

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  2. Yes, that ending kind of leaves you with prickles... taking you out of the realm of faery and legendary terrors (plop!) into everyday London! Btw, have you ever seen the b/w movie I Remember Mama? It's a good family classic and there's an old gentleman in it who reads HotB aloud and gives a good spin on that line. I always hear his voice saying it... :)

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    1. I've never seen I Remember Mama, but I read part of the play for a college class years ago. I'll have to see if I can dig up the movie! Especially since I discovered, looking it up just now, that the old gentleman who reads THOTB in that is Cedric Hardwicke. Whose son Edward Hardwicke went on to play Dr. Watson in the Jeremy Brett adaptations I adore. DUDE!

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  3. I think a case like this dealing with the supernatural would be different for Holmes, who can literally reason away anything suspicious or anything that would be unexplainable to us 'normal' folk. I don't remember his reactions though because it's been so long since I read it, so I'm curious how he approached it.

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    1. I think maybe Holmes relishes this extra challenge too -- can he show how seemingly supernatural events are actually earth-bound? Or is he going to encounter higher forces? At any rate, he's happy not to be bored!

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  4. That final sentence is one of my favourite lines ever too! And a "Vatican cameos" mention! I love it! :)

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    1. It's just one of the best sentences ever, isn't it?

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