The sign of four- Themes

  • Created by: ichastell
  • Created on: 21-11-17 19:46
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  • Themes
    • Crime
      • Theme tracker
        • Chapter 4- Thaddeus Sholto tells of his fathers deathbed confession
        • Chapter 5-6 Batholomew Sholto is murdered and the treasure is stolen again
        • Chapter 12- The Four murder Achmet and steal the Agra Treasure
      • The central focus of the crime novella
      • By the end of chapter 12 we discover that a number of criminal acts are all connected the Agra treasure. Some of these acts are very brutal indeed such as murder of Achmet- buried the knife into his side twice
      • Other crimes are connected to the betrayal such as that committed by Major Sholto- The scroundrel had stolen it all.
      • Greed is a motivational factor for some of the crimes committed that take place in the novella for example Major Sholtos theft of the treasure
      • At other times revenge is a factor for example Smalls brutal murder of the convict guard - I struck him full and knocked the whole front of his skull in
      • In some cases Conan Doyle seems to suggest that circumstances have made criminals out of characters. In other cases characters are presented as born criminals. Tonga for example is never given the opportunity to speak and confess. Small ironically describes his accomplice as being a - blood thirsty imp
      • JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE- Conan Doyle presents us with interesting ideas about justice and injustice in the novella. Jonathan Small is quick to fly at Jones - Justice- snarled the ex-convict. Small feel that he has paid his price  for his crimes and should enjoy the rewards with little thought of his two murder victims. BartholomewSholtos murder is a murder victims however he is presented much less sympathetically because of his greed. Although Miss Morstan seems the rightful owner to the treasure her farther was part of the plan driven by greed.
    • Love and friendship
      • Theme Tracker
        • Chapters 1-2- Holmes and Watson are shown to have a close friendship
        • Chapter 5- Watson falls in love with Miss Morstan
        • Chapter 12- Smalls friendship with Tonga is not an equal partnership
      • Conan Doyle presents the reader with the consulting detective and his close friend with whom he shares his ideas and theories. As Watson is our narrator it means these thoughts are shared with the reader.
      • Holmes is rational and logical Watson more romantic and emotional. In this way Conan Doyle presents a balanced friendship between the two.
      • Romance between Watson and Miss Morstan
        • They become friends almost immediately
        • Their relationship is presented as being selfless and innocent which makes a contract to the main plot
      • Small Singh Akbar and Khan
        • A code of honour exists between them which small refuses to break
        • This makes a sharp contrast to the way Sholto betrayed The Four and even his close friend Morstan to gain the treasure
    • Wealth
      • Theme tracker
        • Chapter 1- Miss Morstan tells how she has been receiving pearls in the post
        • Chapter 4- The Agra treasure has been found at last at Pondicherry Lodge
        • Chapter 12- The origins of the treasure are explained
      • Miss Morstan is portrayed as a humble governess in the beginning . When Thaddeus Sholto reveals the extent of her potential wealth Watson is dismayed thinking it will put her out of reach.
      • Desire for wealth is shown to be corrupting
        • Both major and bartholomew die painful deaths as a result of their greed. It seems there is almost a moral judgment made on them
        • Likewise none of those connected with the initial theft of the treasure benefits from the treasure but all languish in prison for many years
      • Significance of the treasure- In many respects the treasure is symbolic of India itself. As an important British colony India was often referred to as the jewel in the crown. In other words India and the exploitation of its resources generated huge amounts of wealth for Britain. In the sign of four the rajah who initially owned the treasure tried to protect the treasure by halving it and remained neutral in the conflict between the sepoys and Birtish believing which ever side won he would keep his half of his wealth. This was not the case however as he lost everything as a result of the conflict. This is a metaphor for what happened to India itself as it passed completely into British control after the uprising which was termed Mutiny by the British
      • Thaddeus Sholto home is opulent filled with exotic treasures and symbols of wealth- probably inherited from his father. In the setting of a London terraced house however we are given the impression that this rather showy and vulgar. There is no indication that he is seen as a man of class or taste as a result of his collection
    • Duality
      • Theme Tracker
        • Chapters 4-5- Thaddeus Sholto and his twin bartholomew are opposing characters
        • Chapter 9- Holmes switches from being active to being depressed when there are no further leads in his case
        • Chapter 12- Tonga is seen to represent the savage and uncivilised while Small justifies the murders he commits as being the result of circumstances
      • Duality- when something or someone seems to be made up of two opposing parts
      • Male characters in the novella- represent different/opposing characteristics
        • Holmes represent the scientific and rational mind whilst Watson is the romantic dreamer. Watson is also seen as the one who conforms to moral convention whilst Holmes has a darker side to his character- drug use and depression
        • The Sholto twins seem to be presented as good twin seeking to make amends for their fathers wrongdoing and an evil twin who rating his fathers selfish characteristics
        • Small and Tonga embark on the same mission- to retrieve the treasure- and work as a team. However Tongs is treated differently as a black man to the way small is treated as a white man. Small is captured and given the chance to present his side of events. Tongs is brutally shot
      • COMMENTING ON OPPOSION- The them duality was first developed in some early gothic novels where good and evil were pitted against each other. Later the concept of evil became associated with what primitive or savage or untamed man. This helps us to understand some of the fearful attitudes towards Tonga- for example Never have I seen features so deeply marked with all beastality and cruelty- you can also contrast how British officers would be perceived at the time representing all that is right against the shameful behaviour of Sholto and Morstan.
        • The idea  developed to explore how one man could be made up of two parts- one part acceptable to society morals and another hidden part representing his darkest perhaps criminal desires. We see this explored in other texts such as Frankenstien and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In The Sign of Four this concept can be seen in the swift mood changes Holmes experiences that only his closet friend Watson seems to witness. It is also very clear in the first meeting with Thaddeus murdered twin.


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