The Sign of Four Themes

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  • The Sign of The Four
    • Wealth and Treasure
      • Dr Watson
        • Describes the treasure as 'the golden barrier'. Sees the treasure as an obstacle for love.
        • He still gives the treasure to Mary because he is honourable and caring.
      • Mary Morstan
        • She says 'calmly' that the treasure is lost, showing that she is passive about the treasure and cares more about love and isn't materialistic.
        • The pearls, that she recieves, are the catalyst for the whole story.
      • Sherlock Holmes
        • 'it would be a pleasure to my friend here to take the box round to the young lady'. Holmes shows his compassion towards his friend due to the treasure, breaking barriers.
      • Jonathon Small
        • He wants to keep the treasure for himself. He is immoral and obtains the religious sin of jealousy and greed.
        • Believes that it brings nothing but bad to the person who has it. But still wants it all to himself. Didn't do his job properly so that he could have a share in it.
        • Loyal to the Sign of the Four, refuses to betray, an honour among thieves.
      • Bartholemew and Major Sholto
        • Greedy for money - religious sin. They didn't want to share it with Captain Morstan or Mary.
        • Major Sholto betrayed his friend and broke a promise so that he could have the treasure for himself.
      • Thaddeus Sholto
        • Enjoys luxuries, his house is very exotic and he collects paintings.'The suggestion of Eastern luxury', 'Two great tiger-skins'.
        • Shares his wealth. Sends Mary pearls and asks her to meet him so he can give her more.
    • Love and Friendship
      • Watson & Holmes
        • Watson is good with people and emotional (falls in love with Mary and gets out more). Holmes more methodical and a 'calculating machine'
        • Watson is a proxy for the reader, he makes Holmes' excentric personality easier to understand. Their personalities complement each other well.
        • Novel begins and ends with the pair demonstrating their differences and Watson's admiration for Holmes, (doesn't want him to take drugs, tells him about Mary being his wife).
        • Watson is 'hurt' by Holmes' insensitivity towards his late brother and impending marriage. Shows friction caused by Sherlock's rejection of conventional emotion.
        • Watson passionately in love on the night of meeting Mary but Holmes said 'I should never marry myself'
        • Despite the flaws in their relationship, the readers will  regard their friendship as positive as it leads to the solving of crimes whereas the other friendships are motivated by greed and self interest.
      • Watson & Morstan
        • Patriarchal Society: Watson feels as though he has to prove his strength to Mary and that he isn't good enough due to his income and injured leg. Doesn't think that she is beautiful at first.
        • They fall in love almost upon first sight. Watson lists things about her, falls in love for her 'refined and sensitive nature' not her looks, challenging patriarchal society.
        • Sub-plot of the novella, so their relationship is important and portrayed generally to the Victorian stereotype.
      • Small & Tonga
        • A flawed relationship that led to crime.
        • Despite attitudes towards foreignness, there is a English and foreign friendship, but leads to crime.
        • Their bond is strong but an unequal relationship. Tonga serves Small and helps him to seek revenge.
      • Sholto & Morstan
        • Their relationship leads to crime and death.
        • Equal friendship but based on casual drinking  and gambling. This leads to them stealing treasure and religious sin of greed and jealousy.
        • Sholto betrays Morstan by refusing to share the treasure.
    • Crime and Punishment
      • Bartholemew Sholto
        • He was greedy with the treasure he inherited from his father and didn't share it with Mary so his punishment was death.
      • Major Sholto
        • Betrayed Morstan and Small and then didn't share the treasure, so lived a life in perpetual fear of an attack.
      • Captain Morstan
        • He died because he got involved in taking the treasure from Small.
      • Tonga
        • Shot by Holmes and Watson for helping a criminal (Small) and killing Bartholemew
      • Holmes
        • Drugs were illegal, Holmes still takes them as they stimulate his mind and give him his brilliance. Really, Holmes is also a criminal.
        • Uses his intelligence to fight crime rather than create it.
        • Holmes and Watson shoot Tonga, but they do not recieve any kind or punishment, however it was self defence, but they didn't know he was about to shoot a dart.
      • Athelney Jones
        • Presented as comical and stupid to reflect attitudes towards police at time. Most criminals and sinners in the novel aren't punished through the law but by each other, Jones symbolic for the reason why.
      • Jonathon Small
        • Punished by the law when found by Holmes and Watson.
        • Says that he would 'rather swing' shows a form of punishment at the time and how it wasn't taken seriously anymore and not a threat to a hardened criminal.
        • Beats a man to death with his wooden leg. Initial theft of the Agra treasure. Given an opportunity to tell his story, gaining sympathy from reader.
        • Lost his leg in India, maybe a punishment for getting 'into a mess over a girl'.
    • Englishness and Foreignness
      • Mrs Forrester
        • Lives in a 'tranquil English home' which is protected from the dangers surrounding the other characters.
      • Watson
        • Returned from Afghanistan with a wounded leg and little money. Shows how negative foreign countries are.
      • Major Sholto & Captain Morstan
        • Both served abroad and their lives negatively affected. Morstan died and Sholto in constant fear.
      • Jonathon Small
        • Shows that England isn't that good either, here he 'got into a mess over a girl' and was captured in England in a 'wild and desolate' place.
        • Originally from Worcester, from a family of farmers, but still turned bad (***** a girl) but most of his life was spent in India,  had a bad time.
        • In India, he lost his leg and was arrested for theft and murder. His life in India was full of danger, punishment and violence.
        • Describes the others in 'the sign of the four' very negatively at the start and that he was forced into doing the bad things he did.
        • English, but still a criminal, however he was allowed to, in great detail, tell his side of the story and punished within the law.
      • Tonga
        • Treated as a cannibal, a street performer.
        • He was loyal to Small, despite Small doing much worse than Tonga, Tonga was shot by Watson and Holmes.
      • Thaddeus Sholto
        • He lives in a rundown English neighbourhood but his house is full of  exotic ornaments and has a foreign servant.
        • Described unfavourably as really unattractive, suggesting that he is this way due to his association with exoticness.
    • Duality
      • Holmes
        • Shows his dark side with his frequent drug use
        • Watson comments on how terrible it would be if Holmes used his powers for crime rather than detection.
        • Quotes a German text that says:  he is only one man, when he could be two. A good man and a rascal.
        • His pleasure in disguise shows how easily he can adopt a different persona and it satisfies his need to explore different identities.
        • He was a boxer, this shows his ability to assume the role of a boxer without fear of personal injury.
      • Sholto Twins
        • Could be assumed as the good twin and the bad twin. Thaddeus wanted to share the treasure but Bartholemew wanted to keep it for himself.
        • An eerie effect is created when Thaddeus, along with Holmes and Watson, peers through the key whole at his dead Doppelgänger
        • Thaddeus is part English and part foreign, has duality within himself, obsessed with everything exotic.
    • Emotion VS Rationality
      • Holmes
        • Holmes represents rationality, he is a 'calculating machine' and believes that love/emotion gets in the way.
        • He shows morality when he uses his powers to catch criminals, rather than become one himself.
        • Novella written in the times of the 'Aesthetic Movement' which was focused on the arts and intellect, which Holmes demonstrates
        • He is hurtful to Watson when making deductions from his brother's watch, he doesn't react in human ways or care that much for other's feelings.
        • Despite hating love, he loves his work and talks about it and admires it in the same way that Watson does towards Mary.
      • Watson
        • Watson represents emotion, he is in love with Mary and desperately wants to be with her.
        • Also has rational attributes. Foremost, he is a doctor and is aware of the complications of drugs and urges Sherlock to stop using them.
        • Also rational when he knows that he can't be with Mary because of money but shows morality by giving her the treasure anyway.
        • Watson is a foil for the reader, without his human and passionate responses, Sherlock's intellect may be too cold for the reader and make the stories unappealing and they wouldn't be as successful.
      • Athelney Jones
        • Jones has a bit of rationality embedded within him. E.g. Holmes describes him as having 'occasional glimmerings of reason'and has some 'common-sense'.
        • Jones is a character who believes that he is rational (calls Holmes 'Mr Theorist') but Doyle depicts him as making judgements based on pride, preconceptions and prejudice (calling Thaddeus "not attractive")
      • Mary Morstan
        • She is rational and responsible when she takes the pearls and presents her case to Holmes.
        • She is also emotional, she bursts into a 'passion of weeping' which contrasts from the calm roles she had previously been playing.




Thank you so much, this is amazing!









really helps

Joseph Yarde-Buller


Great, but would like to see justice  

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