Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant detective, with an exceptionally keen eye for detail. He is known for his disguises, his logical deduction, and his early use of forensic science. Holmes is the one who solves the case. He is deeply concerned with his own mental stimulation, and tries to keep his mind occupied. As such, when waiting for news, he tends to perform chemical experiments. Holmes shows little emotion, and only really cares about the facts of the case. This separates him from the common man, and makes him seem different. He worked as a consulting detective for 23 years, and 17 of those were with John Watson. Holmes’s only true friend is Doctor John Watson. Holmes maintains little to no connection with any females, except for his housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson.
Watson is Holmes' partner and roommate. He also narrates all but four of Holmes’s adventures. He was originally named 'Ormund Sacker' before Conan Doyle decided on 'John Watson'. He was a doctor in the army and has a bullet in his leg, which can occasionally impede his movement. He is also a very good shot. Watson has a strong sense of honor and discretion. On occasion, he tries to solve cases without Holmes, with a limited degree of success. He is a more empathetic and human counterpart to Holmes. He is very intelligent, but lacking in powers of observation. Watson is later married to Ms. Mary Morstan.
Mary Morstan brings the case to Holmes and Watson’s attention. She has been searching unsuccessfully for her father and has received several mysterious pearls in the mail. Mary is described as blonde, with pale skin. She was working as a governess when she contacted Holmes. Her mother died soon after Mary’s birth, and Mary was educated in England. At the end of the story, Watson proposes to Ms. Morstan and she accepts. She is 27 years old when introduced. Mary isn’t really interested in the treasure and the fortune it would bring, and she is happy when the chest is empty. Mary’s father was a senior captain within his group and disappeared in London when visiting his daughter. He was a good man, who felt guilty about his actions in the war. He died when his heart gave out and he fell, cracking his skull.
Major Sholto was an officer and friend of Arthur Morstan. He was the one who was originally approached about the location of the treasure, as Jonathan Small believed that his greed would make him an easy target. Sholton is tasked with the retrieval of the treasure, but takes it all for himself, leaving Small and Morstan without anything. When Morstan later confronts him, Morstan has a heart attack and dies. Sholto hides the body and keeps the treasure. He lives the rest of his life plagued by extreme guilt and fear. He dies after seeing Jonathan Small’s face in a window.
Major Sholto’s son, Thaddeus is is the one who sends the pearls to Mary Morstan. He does this to try to share his wealth after finding that his father was involved in Major Morstan’s death. He collects art, and contacts Holmes when he finds that his brother has located the treasure chest. He is heavily disappointed in his father’s actions. He is in constantly poor health, and is very twitchy and nervous. Thaddeus is originally arrested as a suspect in his brother’s murder, as it was known that they fought the night before the murder.
Bartholomew is Thaddeus’s twin brother and Major Sholto’s son. He doesn’t like to share wealth or information with Holmes or Morstan. Bartholomew discovers the chest and is later killed by Tonga with a poison dart.
Small is the antagonist of the story. Small has a wooden leg, which he got following an accident involving a crocodile. He was one of “the four," a group of men who discovered a cache of jewels. After this, an uprising occurred and Small was captured. In prison, he passes on the secret to Majors Morstan and Sholto. Morstan retrieves the jewels, but betrays the others, leaving Small in prison. When Small gets out he heads to England to try to get his share. He believes that he and the rest of “the four” are the only ones entitled to the treasure. When almost captured, he dumps the jewels in the river. He enlisted Tonga to help him in his quest. Small is not afraid to resort to violence to achieve his goals, although he was displeased when Tonga killed Bartholomew. Small has a beard and is very tan. He also has a very lined face.
Tonga is an islander who is absolutely devoted to Small. Small nursed Tonga back to health when Tonga was ill. He helps Small escape and break into Sholto’s house. Tonga is the one who killed Bartholomew. He is now considered to be a rather racist character, with Doyle describing him as “animalistic” and “savage." This reflects the Eurocentric mindset of Doyle's time.
A small mongrel dog who helps Holmes and Watson trace the origin of the creosote.
Mordecai Smith and his son Jim unwittingly help Tonga escape on their boat, the Aurora.
The Sign of the Four Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Sign of the Four is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Dan Cody was a mentor to Gatsby when he was young. He made his fortune through the gold rush and actually left Jay some of his fortune, although that fortune was later seized by Cody's ex wife. He showed Gatsby what the good life was like and...