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The Hound of the Baskervilles

While the popularity of the theory of evolution was growing, the fin-de-siècle literature strived to explain paranormal phenomena and accommodate them in the sphere of science and reason. Simultaneously, the Victorian era was marked by the increasing awareness of the foreign influence and its effects. In his well-known book The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle explores both of these subjects to describe crime and guilt as a force, which stems from within and at the same time is urged from outside.

According to the family history, the Baskervilles are an old and cursed line, which was haunted by the sins of their ancestor, who was a real hellish beast. Holmes rejects this metaphysical explanation and looks for a real human being to blame. Using a scientific deductive method, the detective solves this crime by tracing physical similarities between the portrait and the culprit person who is responsible for the crime. In this way, a book follows the nineteenth-century fashion for the theory of genetic determinism, which claimed that Stapleton’s guilt was a hereditary phenomenon, and his unavoidable legacy of sin is stamped in his genes.

One stronger element that pertains to the origin of guilt in The Hound of the Baskervilles comes from abroad. While the family, about which the story is, represents traditional English nobility on the outside, its position is shaken, and its members are forced to look for wealth abroad. Sir Charles’s death is attributed to an extreme fear, though Simmons considers it a “guilt death” that is the result of fear that one’s deeds are about to be revealed. Consequently, Stapleton’s substantial exposure to foreign contamination distorts his conscience past the point of horror all the way to final criminality. The temptations of foreign origin force him to betray his values and dive into guilt and degradation.

The book advocates the hereditary nature of human vices and considers biology to be the major source of criminal’s guilt. However, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle expresses the opinion that besides genetic predisposition, an individual needs an impetus from the outside to become a criminal, and this impetus can be provided by the impact of foreign cultures. Generally, there are a few forces, inner and outer ones, which lead an individual to the evil side, and the most nefarious horrors occur when these forces act together.

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