The Terrifying Silence


The mysteriousness and ambiguity of the Mormons’ threats and power are far more fear-inspiring than any concrete threat. Ferrier does not know what tragedy will befall him if he disobeys the Mormon creed, causing him to imagine the worst possible punishment. Doyle describes disappearances of men, saying, “A rash word or a hasty act was followed by annihilation, and yet none knew what the nature might be of this terrible power which was suspended over them” (Doyle 89). The religion that had saved John Ferrier and his adopted daughter from suffering death in the harsh desert is now the most terrifying power that is threatening those same lives. Although the Mormons have not yet officially punished Ferrier, their not so discreet messages reminding him just how many days are left until his punishment play with his emotions. It is for this reason that Ferrier puts so much importance on leaving the jurisdiction of the Saints. Had Young Brigham told him what his punishment would be, Ferrier may have just made sure that his adopted daughter Lucy would be able to escape the Mormon lifestyle while he himself stayed and accepted his fate. However, the terror that Young Brigham and the Elders instilled in Ferrier’s heart was too intense to be overlooked, and Ferrier put his trust in Jefferson Hope, who was not affected by threats from the Mormons, to be the brave hero and save them. In the way that the Mormons are depicted, it is obvious the Doyle believes that organized religion is dangerous and terrifying.

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2 comments

  1. Taken out of context, I find when you said, “The religion that had saved John Ferrier” to be a very interesting point. Typically when I hear of a religion saving somebody, I think of how their relationship with a god or some other aspect gave them enough power to overcome a certain feat. However, in the case in the story, it was not a relationship with a god that saved Ferrier, but the relationship of others with a god. I think this point is really important because it is so opposite of what we expect when we hear that a person was saved by a religion. Although at the time of this interpretation we did not know, but the religion that saved him was also the one that killed him! I feel that Doyle certainly is playing with the idea of organized religion, just as you said. Very nicely done!

  2. In your post, you pointed out that Ferrier’s ignorance to his fate was far scarier than actually knowing his punishment. Considering the argument that knowledge is power, I agree. Having all of the information regarding a situation allows people to plan or mentally prepare for whatever tragedy is coming their way. This opportunity to come to terms with fate may be helpful because the unknown is not as much of a factor. Ferrier, however, did not have this luxury. After he finds the note on his chest with only a dash hinting at his fate, Ferrier is struck with the fear for his life as well as the fear of what will cause it to end (pg 95). The members of the Council of Four use the uncertainty of the future against their prey, as evident in their ambiguous threats. They further this fear by painting decreasing numbers all around Ferrier’s property, constantly reminding him that his number would be up soon (pg 96). Arthur Conan Doyle’s depiction of the Mormons, especially after using this form of instilling terror in their opponents, may mirror his own beliefs regarding religion. It is possible that he thought organized religion was as fear-inducing as the threats the Mormons invoked upon Ferrier. However, his view is definitely skewed, since he was not fully informed and lacked substantial research on the Mormon faith while writing this novel. Therefore, the author becomes a perfect example of why knowledge is power; maybe if he had more information, he would not have been as seemingly put off by religion.

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