Rampenthal Analysis: The Hound of Baskervilles

For this Holmes story, I thought I would look at Dr. Watson’s behavior and mental state (as we discussed in class). I decided on noting specific thoughts of mine and moments in the story as I read it.

(Since I read the story on my kindle, I don’t really have page numbers, but instead percentages.)

45% through the story: We are finally alone with Dr. Watson. Up until this point he has only acted as a narrator, repeating back what he has seen, but not sharing his own personal thoughts. This makes it difficult to get a read on him. All I could say before now is that he is a bit of a pushover. He does exactly what Holmes asks. Other than that, not much to report. However, we are now in Baskervilles and he is alone. So far he is suspicious of the neighbors, as we see when Stapleton says, “You are perfectly right to be wary and discreet.” But is he suspicious because of his own mental issues or because there is a murderer running around? Probably the murderer.

We do see Dr. Watson starting to feel down and dark at this point.  In his first letter that he transcribes, he writes about the gloominess surrounding him.

73%: Watson has gone off to examine the hut that the boy dropped food off at. He stays and waits, gun in hand. This is either brave and courageous or impulsive and stupid. It depends on how you look at it. Fortunately for him, it turns out to be the hiding spot of Holmes. Had it been the killer, Watson could have found himself in serious danger.

74%: Watson is upset that Holmes deceived him. But he instantly forgets his anger when Holmes compliments him. I knew a lot of girls/guys in high school who did the same thing when their significant other was in the wrong.

100%: The case is solved and Holmes and Watson are back at home. Watson doesn’t appear to be neurodiverse. He does seem to be a Holmes fanboy. He also seems to be one of those people who forgives and forgets too easily (as seen at 74%). But really, throughout this story, he seems like a normal guy.

The more I looked into him the more normal he seems. Fan sites even consider him an intelligent ladies man. It seems that the damaged, depressed Watson is seen in movies and shows, but not in the originals stories (or at least not in this one).

One odd thing about him though, was that him and Holmes work to catch killers, yet he didn’t report the convict brother. He even seemed to pity the man, which is insane because the guy was a killer. Odd.

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2 thoughts on “Rampenthal Analysis: The Hound of Baskervilles

  1. ashleighnfowler

    Since most of the story was narrated by Dr. Watson, I too wanted to look at the neurotypicality or neurodiversity of Watson while reading. In “A Study in Scarlet”, I personally found Watson to be neurodiverse. While discussing being roommates with Sherlock, Watson states, “I keep a bull pup … and I object to rows because my nerves are shaken, and I get up at all sorts of ungodly hours, and I am extremely lazy. I have another set of vices when I’m well, but those are the principal ones at present” (“A Study in Scarlet”, Conan Doyle, 7). From my very limited knowledge of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I would assume that Watson suffers from it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of PTSD include but are not limited to; bad dreams, staying area from certain places that are reminders of the traumatic experience, having difficulty sleeping, and more. From a few of these things, one could label Watson as suffering from PTSD. However, just as you, while reading “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, I too found Watson to seem pretty neurotypical. It would be interesting to read more of the Sherlock Holmes series to see how Watson is portrayed.

    In your analysis, you brought up an interesting point that I didn’t think about. Why didn’t Watson report to the police that “the convict” was in the Moor? Perhaps, he had empathy for the Barrymores’. The couple isn’t dislikeable and the convict is Eliza’s brother. Eliza states, “ … We humoured him too much when he was a lad, and gave him his own way in everything until he came to think that the world was made for his pleasure, and that he could do. Then as he grew older he met wicked companions, and the devil entered into him… From crime to crime he sank lower and lower, until it is only the mercy of God which has snatched him from the scaffold; but to me, sir, he was always the little curly-headed boy that I had nursed and played with, as an elder sister would” ( “ The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Conan Doyle, 42). Maybe he felt bad for the family and was empathetic towards them but as you stated, it is his job to not only solve crimes but to report them as well. On top of that, Watson is a military man. I don’t know anyone who has joined the military ( or that has become a police officer) that hasn’t had a strong sense of justice. I tried to research why people wouldn’t report a crime but all that my research came up with was information on the bystander effect. According to Psychology Today, the bystander effect is defined as, “when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation”. But Watson isn’t a bystander. He didn’t see anything happen, he just knows valuable information. If Watson and Sherlock were on the case to find the convict, he would want to know this information. The most wanted criminal in England is in the Moor and Watson knows this yet he doesn’t say anything. That is weird.

    Citations

    “Bystander Effect.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.
    .

    “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” The National Institute of Mental Health. The National Institute of Mental Health, n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2016. .

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  2. emimarr

    I agree with your analysis of Watson being more neurotypical than neurodivergent. It was touched upon in A Study in Scarlet that he displays obsessive tendencies, but in The Hound of the Baskervilles this fixation seems to have faded to admiration. There are many instances where John acts like ‘a Holmes fanboy’ as you pointed out, even though he is treated rather callously by Sherlock. I think that the complicated relationship between the two is especially obvious in this novel.

    It’s evident from the first page that Watson is eager to impress Holmes. He employs Holmes’ methods of deduction when examining Mortimer’s cane and guesses that he is ‘a successful, elderly medical man’ (Doyle 1902). Holmes then compliments him in a backhanded way, but this doesn’t faze Watson at all. He is simply grateful for his praise. In addition to idolising Sherlock, John is observant of others’ reverence towards him. This is demonstrated when he describes Dr. Mortimer ‘gazing at my friend [Holmes] in amazement’ (Doyle 1902), thereby drawing the reader’s attention to Sherlock’s savant abilities. When tasked with investigating Baskerville Hall, Watson has the opportunity to imitate Sherlock by playing detective. He wastes no time in doing this, which emphasises that he not only respects Sherlock, but desires to become like him.

    While Holmes’ is shown to care for Watson, he also behaves patronisingly towards him. He seems to view Watson as an accessory to his own genius, evidenced when he describes his companion as ‘not [himself] luminous, but…a conductor of light’ (Doyle 1902). Holmes’ manipulative personality is highlighted when he sends Watson to Baskerville Hall as a distraction while he conducts his own private investigation. John is understandably upset when he learns of this, but Sherlock displays no remorse for his actions. He is so bound by logic that he is unable to see the error of his ways. Some may view this as social ineptness and a symptom of ASD. I, however, regard it as evidence of Sherlock’s self-righteous attitude. Though Watson himself admits that he has ‘deserved better at [Holmes’] hands’ (Doyle 1902), he is – like you said – quick to forgive; a few words of praise from Holmes are all that is needed to calm him. This exchange embodies Holmes and Watson’s co-dependency: Holmes depends on Watson’s adulation to boost his ego, while Watson relies on Holmes’ compliments for validation.

    Although I can’t discern any evidence that Holmes or Watson are neurodivergent, their relationship certainly has unconventional aspects to it. While I personally think that Watson’s glorification of Holmes borders on being unhealthy, it can also be said that it is the reason they make such an effective team.

    Citations
    Conan Doyle, A 1902, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Available from: https://sherlock-holm.es/stories/pdf/a4/1-sided/houn.pdf. [26 September 2016].

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