Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

The Gothic Lens in The Hound of the Baskervilles and Wuthering Heights

Both The Hound of the Baskervilles and Wuthering Heights have elements of the gothic. One motif that both novels have in common is the role that houses have on its characters.  Baskerville Hall presents a foreboding setting for its inhabitants, as Baskerville “looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered like a ghost at the farther end. . . a window or a coat-of-arms broke through the dark veil [of the ivy].  From this central block rose the twin towers, ancient, crenelated, and pierced with many loopholes. . .” (Doyle, 58).  This description of Baskerville Hall suggests that it is almost otherworldly.  Comparing the Hall to a “ghost” suggests that the evils that happened behind its walls are omnipresent.  The actions of Hugo Baskerville cast a shadow on the Baskerville family that is extended to the appearance, mood, and atmosphere of the house itself.  The house’s past weighs heavily upon the characters in the present.  Although in a modern age, the house is described as though it has not changed for hundreds of years.  Despite the fact that the kind, and charismatic Charles Baskerville once lived there, its setting appears more fitting for the likes of Hugo.

In Wuthering Heights, as in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the mansion has a palpable effect on the characters of the novel.  First of all, the name of the mansion is “Wuthering Heights.”  “Wuthering” is an adjective for the weather found at the manor; it is dark, unwelcoming, harsh, and windy, much like the personality of the foreboding Heathcliff, whose personality closely mirrors that of Hugo Baskerville (both Hugo and Heathcliff kidnap women and keep them in their manors as prisoner).  In both novels mansions serves as a reminder of past atrocities.  Figuratively and literally the manor is stuck in the past.  “Before passing the threshold, I paused to admire the grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date ‘1500’” (Bronte, 2).  Here, the sense of decay in the manor is evident with “crumbling” ornaments and the fact that it was built in “1500.”  Likewise, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Baskerville Hall is described as “ancient,” so much so that Henry’s first thought is to install electric lighting (bringing modernity to a building that is evidently stuck in the past).  In Gothic literature, houses can be as much of a character as the actual humans in the novel.  In Wuthering Heights the crumbling manor represents the wicked heart and depressing history of Heathcliff, while in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Baskerville Hall remains a stark reminder of the immoral past of the Baskerville family.


1 Comment

  1. I really agree to your argument. As these mansions are suggested as the places that embody Gothic values, they consequently cast some mystical, unworldly atmosphere over the whole story. While the need of detective novel for rationality or scientific methods is fulfilled by the character of Holmes and Watson, it is the overwhelming places that provides the readers with riddles to solve. No matter how many times Holmes makes comment that emphasizes modern set of values such as science, characters are not free from outdated belief as long as the Baskerville Hall exists there and exercises its influences.

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