The Sign Of The Four: Language

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  • The Sign of the Four: Language
    • Narrative voice
      • Watson's viewpoint allows us to share his wonder at Holmes' skills as a detective.
      • Watson asks questions that the reader is also thinking.
      • Watson operates as a 'framework narrator' - his perspective holds the various elements of the plot together.
    • Figurative language
      • Description of Thaddeus Sholto: 'a bald, shining scalp which shot out from among it like a mountain-peak from fir-trees' (C4)
      • Watson's concern about his compatibility with Miss Morstan: 'This Agra treature intervened like an impassable barrier between us' (C7)
      • Description of London: 'Mud-coloured clouds drooped sadly over the muddy streets [...] the dull heavy evening [...] combined to make me nervous and depressed' (C3)
    • Dialogue
      • The dialogue between Holmes and Watson reveals the clues that Holmes has gathered. This device keeps the reader involved.
      • Gives us a better picture of the characters e.g. if they have colloquialisms
        • Mrs Smith: 'Lor' bless you, sir' (C8)
    • Irony
      • There is irony in the first newspaper report - describes Jones as Holmes.
        • 'The prompt and energetic action of the officers of the law shows the great advantage of the presence on such occasions of a single vigorous and masterful mind.' (C6)
      • Holmes describes the arrival of the police in mock respectful terms.
        • ''But halloo! Here are the accredited representatives of the law.' Heavy steps and the clamour of loud voices were audible from below, and the hall door shut with a loud crash' (C6)
    • Science and reason
      • Holmes treats the case in the same way as he does his chemical experiments - clear thoughts and rational explanations.
        • 'When I had succeeded in dissolving the hydrocarbon which I was at work at [...] that always remained as a possible hypothesis' (C10)
      • This language gives Holmes a superior edge in terms of knowledge - outsmarts his contemporaries.
        • The reader may feel distanced from Holmes and relate to Watson's admiration and inferiority.
    • Race
      • They see Tonga as a wild animal rather than a human being.
        • 'Holmes had already drawn his revolver, and I whipped out mine at the sight of this savage, distorted creature' (C10)
    • Literary Allusions
      • Holmes refers to writers and philosophers in his talk.
        • He quotes Richter and Goethe in their original German language.
          • This highlights his vast intellect and knowledge. May have appealed more to a contemporary reader than a modern one.

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