The Sign of the Four

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Sign of the Four: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As the police boat heads back, Holmes talks with Jonathan Small, who denies having anything to do with killing Bartholomew—that was all Tonga, “that little hell-hound,” he says. Holmes says that, if Small gives him an honest account of everything, he can probably prove that the poisoning of Bartholomew took place before Small arrived in the room.
This passage contains further characterization of Tonga as being more of a dog than a human. Small is a given a shot at relative redemption, whereas Tonga’s evilness is set in stone.
Themes
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The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
Small reflects on his unfortunate life, saying it seems unfair that “I, who have a fair claim to half a million of money, should spend the first half of my life building a breakwater in the Andamans, and am like to spend the other half digging drains in Dartmoor.” He curses the Agra treasure and all those involved.
Like the others who have come into contact with the Agra treasure, Small has come to a misfortunate end. The wider implication here is that the pursuit of wealth does not bring happiness to the pursuer. Also noteworthy is Small’s claim on the treasure, which, as is revealed in his story, is based on murder and subterfuge—nobody ever thinks that it should be returned to the original Indian owner.
Themes
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
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Jones comes in to say that Mordecai Smith is professing his innocence; Small confirms that he knew nothing of their criminality and he was just doing his job. Small tells the men that the key for the treasure is at the bottom of the river.
Mordecai Smith is portrayed as a simple working-class man, ignorant to the goings-on that the other characters were privy to. The key at the bottom of the reader returns the treasure back to a state of unresolved mystery.
Themes
Wealth Theme Icon
Watson is dropped off at Vauxhall bridge with the treasure box and takes it to Miss Morstan’s house. She is dressed in “white diaphanous material,” looking angelic. She doesn’t seem excited to be in receipt of the treasure, despite Watson’s slightly insincere attempts to talk up the occasion. He tells her about the boat chase.
The “angel in the house”—represented here by Miss Morstan—is a popular Victorian image that characterizes woman as submissive, meek, passive and essentially in wait for her male superior. The concept stems from a popular 1854 poem by Coventry Patmore and ties in with the idea that women are emotional and irrational compared with men’s intellectual superiority.
Themes
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Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
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Without a key to open the treasure box, Watson wedges it open using a poker. To their amazement, the box is entirely empty. Miss Morstan calmly says, “the treasure is lost.” Watson, without being able to stop himself, exclaims, “thank god!” Miss Morstan smilingly asks him why he is so relieved; he explains that she is now within his “reach” again and that he loves her. The treasure would have stopped them being together, he says. They embrace.
Watson is relieved that the treasure is lost because it prevents the ascension of Miss Morstan into the wealthy classes, thereby keeping his love for her within the realm of possibility. Glibly speaking, Miss Morstan is characterized as the “real treasure.”
Themes
Wealth Theme Icon
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