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There are two kinds of isolation in The Hound of the Baskervilles: geographical and mental. We talk about geographical isolation in our theme "Contrasting Regions: The Moors and London." So what we've got left here is psychological isolation. We all need our space sometimes, but a lot of isolation isn't particularly healthy.
What makes a person feel psychologically isolated or alienated? Well, he or she could be in new and unfamiliar territory (Watson, Sir Henry); having to keep secrets (Holmes, the Barrymores, Stapleton); or feeling threatened (Sir Charles, Beryl, and Laura); And when you're feeling isolated from your friends and your community for whatever reason, it's easier for people to scare you.
Questions About Isolation
- Who would you say is the most isolated character in this novel? Is that isolation self-imposed, or does it come from some outside source? What effect does it have on this character to be so isolated?
- How does Watson respond to Holmes' demands to be left alone to think? What explanations does Watson give for Holmes' need to be alone to think through his cases?
- Being in a class by yourself (like Holmes) can be an isolating experience. (They say it's lonely at the top.) Which comes first—does being so unique make a person feel isolated? Or does being isolated give a person the chance to develop exceptional skills?
- How does the theme of isolation in The Hound of the Baskervilles relate to the fact that this is a detective story? Is there something about the genre of the detective story that makes isolation a useful narrative tool?
Chew on This
While many of the characters in The Hound of the Baskervilles struggle with isolation, Conan Doyle represents Stapleton as the furthest outside a real social network. Stapleton's weak and broken relationships with others suggest that being a criminal is, by its nature, an isolating experience. Maybe that's why people might join a gang or look for a "partner in crime."
Holmes's self-imposed, intellectual isolation contrasts with the emotional loneliness of other characters like Watson and Sir Henry, emphasizing his intellectual approach to human relationships.
Physical isolation can lead to psychological isolation.