The Portrayal of Women in The Hound of the Baskervilles
Women in the nineteenth century were often considered less than men. Consequently, they depended on the men in their lives, usually their fathers or husbands. Nevertheless, there were women who did not have a husband or father to depend on, yet still had to trust the other men in their lives to take care of them. This dependency often ended in men betraying the women who trusted them. The Hound of the Baskervilles illustrates how women in the nineteenth century were taken advantage of, even when placed in very different situations.
Mrs. Barrymore, one of the workers in the Baskerville Mansion, portrays a woman in a good marriage. Her husband, Mr. Barrymore, refuses to reveal her secret to Sir Henry and Watson and in doing so, illustrated his loyalty to his wife (Doyle 151-152). Mrs. Barrymore, however, is still taken advantage of by the men in the book. Watson and Sir Henry ultimately take advantage of the information she gives them about Seldon (Doyle 151-152). Although they gave an excuse for using that information in order to chase Seldon through the moore (Doyle 168), the excuse is ultimately in vain after they agree to go along with the Barrymore’s plans (Doyle 169). Mr. Barrymore even admits after mentioning the subject to Sir Henry, “I didn’t think you would have taken advantage of it Sir Henry–Indeed I didn’t.”(Doyle 168) This is in reference to Sir Henry’s betrayal of Barrymore’s wife. Mrs. Barrymore represents women in good situations, with a loyal husband, and how they are still betrayed by the men in society.
Beryl Stapleton is in a very different situation than Mrs. Barrymore. Although she is married, she is in a very unhappy marriage. In this marriage she not only has to hide the fact that they are married (Doyle 208), but her husband also beats her in order to keep his murder plans secret (Doyle 255-256). When she finally comes to a realization, she cries out, “I could endure it all… as long as I could still cling to the hope that I had his love, but now I know that in this also I have been his dupe and his tool (Doyle 256).” She admits that she was his tool and was taken advantage of him, and when she leads the detectives through the Grimpen Mire to capture her husband, she is portrayed as happy and eager for her husband’s downfall (Doyle 258). This illustrates the extent of betrayal she experienced in the marriage and her happiness to finally be free. She represents the women in unhappy, untruthful marriages, and how these women are taken advantage of by the men they depend on.
Laura Lyons was in a rare situation in which she was already betrayed by her husband, who ran away, and her father, who refused to take her back into his household (Doyle 175). She, thus, depended on the other men who lived on the moore, such as Sir Charles and Stapleton, who helped her set up her own business (Doyle 176). Consequently, she is later taken advantage of by one of the men she is dependent on Stapleton. He portrayed himself to her as a love interest (Doyle 207-208) and lied to her, telling her he would marry her all while hiding the fact that he was already married (Doyle 239). After hearing this, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decide to use this information in order to draw more evidence out of Laura Lyons (Doyle 255). This scheme is successful and another betrayal is discovered. Using the lies he had told her earlier, Stapleton urged Laura Lyons to meet Sir Charles on the moore, but later he convinces her to miss the appointment, ultimately resulting in the murder of Sir Charles (Doyle 239-240). Laura Lyons is betrayed by men all throughout her lifetime and is an example of how even when it seems like there were no men left to take advantage of a woman, she can still be left betrayed.
The three women in these novels lead very different lives, however they are all left in similar situations. Rather it is being betrayed by someone for information, such as Mrs. Barrymore and Laura Lyons when involved with Dr. Watson, or being taken advantage of for someone else’s personal gain, such as Beryl Stapleton and Laura Lyons by Mr. Stapleton. This portrayal of women highlights this advantages men had in the nineteenth century and how they interacted with women, even when they unintentionally used them. It is evident throughout the novel and, although these are over exaggerations, can be found in examples of real life nineteenth century women.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Hound of the Baskervilles. 1902. PlanetPDF
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Women in the nineteenth century were often considered less than men. Consequently, they depended on the men in their lives, usually their fathers or husbands. Nevertheless, there were women who […]