The Sign of the Four

The Sign of the Four Imagery

“Mud-coloured clouds droop sadly over the muddy streets and the day is a dreary one, and a dense drizzly fog lay low upon the great city” (98)

The description of the weather in London shows its atmosphere and evokes multiple emotions. The Strand Street plunges into darkness and it looks like a grey desert. The descriptions help ground the reader and place them in the same atmosphere and setting as the characters.

“They are a fierce, morose, and intractable people, though capable of forming most devoted friendships when their confidence has once been gained [...] massacres with the police are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast” (128)

The author pays considerable attention to the description of the aborigines of the Andaman Islands. This text from a gazetteer, which Holmes quotes, suggests that aborigines are dangerous for the life of people. This imagery helps convey this danger and how immediate it can be when one interacts with the aborigines.

“She is a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved, and dressed in the most perfect taste [...] [There was] a plainness and simplicity about her costume which bore with it a suggestion of limited means” (94)

Mary Morstan wins readers at the first sight; this description of her strikes a remarkable balance between her elegance and plainness of appearance. The author is delighted with the beauty and simplicity of English women, as is Watson. Watson's attention to the details around Mary betray his affection for her.

"We were all astonished by the appearance of the apartment into which he invited us. In that sorry house it looked as out of place as a diamond of the first water in a setting of brass. The richest and glossiest of curtains and tapestries draped the walls, looped back here and there to expose some richly mounted painting or Oriental vase. The carpet was of amber and black, so soft and so thick that the foot sank pleasantly into it, as into a bed of moss. Two great tiger-skins thrown athwart it increased the suggestion of Eastern luxury, as did a huge hookah which stood upon a mat in the corner. A lamp in the fashion of a silver dove was hung from an almost invisible golden wire in the centre of the room. As it burned it filled the air with a subtle and aromatic odour" (100)

This imagery sets the scene for Thaddeus Sholto's house and provides vital clues for the reader as to what direction the story will take, and as to who exactly this Thaddeus is. It also further highlights the fact that Mary may in fact have been wronged: she has none of the riches or finery of this presumed heir of an associate of her father. All she has are rare pearls sent to her every year. This imagery helps create suspense and deepen the mystery surrounding the pearls.