But first before we dig into the discussion, a few housekeeping notes. The page numbers I put after my favorite lines are from this edition. They're mostly just here for my own reference. Also, you are totally free to discuss any aspect of the chapter in the comments here, not just respond to what I've said. The "possible discussion questions" are just things I think might interest people, but they're not a limit as to what we can talk about. Also, since these are short and quick chapters for the most part, I'll try to post a new one every couple of days -- about 3 a week. Does that sound too fast to anyone? That would mean we'd finish up mid-November, before the holidays kick into gear.
And I'm going to tease you a little by telling you that later this week, I will be posting an interview with a New York Times best-selling author as a special guest post for this read-along.
Now on to the discussion!
|Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988)|
I don't know about you, but I had a very hard time stopping at the end of chapter one to write up these notes. I just want to read on and on and on -- it's the perfect day for this book here, all grey, rainy, thoroughly gloomy and mysterious. Which is probably why I'm drawn to this story in autumn, when my weather matches its.
But anyway, this first chapter is short, full of Holmes and Watson doing their Holmes and Watson things. Watson thinks he's done a really great job making deductions from the walking stick left behind by Dr. Mortimer, who visited them while they were out the night before. And he's done better than I probably would have, even if most of his deductions were erroneous. Holmes then gets all smug and superior, as he often does -- how can a man be so infuriating, bordering on positively unlikable, and yet be so beloved? Good writing, I suppose.
I don't have much else to say here, as the mystery really gets going in the next chapter. This one serves to introduce Holmes and Watson to new readers and remind those familiar with them just what these characters were like. After all, when this was first published, it was Doyle's first new Sherlock Holmes story in almost a decade, so even the fans might appreciate a refresher.
Oh, and in case your edition doesn't explain this (mine has notes and stuff), when Mortimer describes Holmes' skull as "dolichocephalic," that means it's longer than it is wide. Mortimer is interested in phrenology, which was a theory that brains have certain areas dedicated to certain functions, and the shape of someone's skull was a guide to what parts of the brain are more developed than others. You can read more about it here. Holmes himself may have subscribed to that theory at least a little, judging by his comment in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" that a hat that is too large for him indicates that its owner is an intellectual since "a man with so large a brain must have something in it" (p. 293).
"I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it" (p. 576).
"Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill" (p. 578).
"...a picker up of shells on the shores of the great unknown ocean" (p. 578).
Possible Discussion Questions:
Doyle describes Mortimer as "a very tall, thin man, with a long nose like a beak, which jutted out between two keen, gray eyes" (p. 578). This sounds a LOT like how Doyle describes Sherlock Holmes in the stories! Why do you suppose he had this new character bear such a resemblance to the hero?
Have you ever read this story before, or seen an adaptation of it?