The Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle
In The Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle we have the theme of fear, cruelty, unhappiness, greed, desperation and love. Taken from Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes collection of stories the reader realises after reading the story that Doyle may be exploring the theme of fear. Miss Hunter though glad to sacrifice her hair in order to take up a position in Rucastle’s home as governess becomes afraid of the circumstances she finds herself in. Hence her asking Holmes and Watson to venture down to Winchester so as she may ask them for advice. Though the reader has their suspicions as to why Miss Hunter is being treated in the manner she is being treated. It comes as a shock that her likeness to Miss Rucastle has been the driving factor in her gaining employment. Though only briefly mentioned in the story Miss Rucastle is an important character as it is her unhappiness and her father’s greed which leads to her being held as a prisoner in her own home. With Rucastle being unable to let go of the inheritance that his daughter received from her mother. He would rather have the money for his own use than allow his daughter the opportunity of happiness with Mr Fowler.
The fact that Holmes talks about logic with Watson at the beginning of the story could also be important as by the time the story comes to an end. Everything that has happened neatly fits into what could be described as logic. Rucastle’s driving factor in keeping his daughter hostage is based on greed. Something which Holmes can see as a logical progression for Rucastle to take when he faces the fact that he may lose his first wife’s money in which he is the guardian of. Also Watson as in most of Doyle’s stories with regard to Sherlock Holmes appears to be one or two steps behind Holmes. He appears like the reader to be uncertain as to what is actually happening. Seeing no motive. How desperate Rucastle actually may be is also noticeable by the manner in which he has detained his daughter. She is living in a dark room with little or no comforts and is aided by Mr and Mrs Toller. Which might explain as to why Mr Toller is allowed to work and drink at the same time. He has a hold over Rucastle.
Another instance of how desperate Rucastle actually may be is noticeable by the fact that Miss Hunter is forced to dress like Miss Rucastle in order that Mr Fowler is fooled. However it is interesting that Mr Fowler never gives up on Miss Rucastle which may lead some readers to believe that he is deeply in love with her and is prepared to do anything to rescue her from a life that he knows she finds unpleasant. Despite Rucastle’s actions he cannot stop Mr Fowler from rescuing Miss Rucastle. It is also interesting that Holmes can see a crime in every environment he encounters. This may be important as Holmes does not seem to be fooled by appearances. Unlike Watson. Who can’t imagine there being any criminal activity in the countryside because it looks so nice. If anything Watson does not have the same insight that Holmes does when it comes to human nature. Some critics might also suggest that there is an element of justice in the fact that Rucastle is attacked by the mastiff. That it is the least he deserves after doing what he did to his daughter.
There is also one unusual element in the story and that is the decision by Mrs Toller to tell the truth. Some might suggest that she is doing so because she knows that what has happened to Miss Rucastle is wrong. Though it is also possible that she is aware that the truth will come out and if it comes from her she may receive a lenient sentence should the matter be referred to the police. Whatever Mrs Toller’s reason one thing is certain she is the only character in the story who is prepared to change the status quo and give Holmes the final piece of information that he needs to solve the case and give clarity to what has happened. It might also be important that life continues for Mr Fowler and Miss Rucastle (happily) and Miss Hunter becomes a head of a school in Walsall (also happy). Whereas Rucastle is left to his own devices never fully recovering and having to be looked after by his wife. Who though rarely mentioned in the story is complicit in what has happened. It would seem that her feelings took precedence over how her step-daughter felt. Miss Rucastle had not only to grieve the loss of her mother but she had to live with a woman she did not like and could not wait to get away from. With Mr Fowler being her escape to happiness.