The Sign of the Four

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Captain Morstan Character Analysis

Captain Morstan was an officer in the British army who served in India. He is Mary Morstan’s father, and his unexplained disappearance is the catalyst for the novella’s plot. He was friends with Major Sholto and had agreed with him to facilitate Jonathan Small’s escape from the Andaman Islands penal colony—where he and Sholto were working—in exchange for a share of the Agra treasure. Sholto deceives him and takes the treasure for himself. According to Thaddeus Sholto—which in turn is according to Major Sholto—Captain Morstan died from a heart attack during an argument with Sholto. Sholto then hid his body to avoid suspicion and the detection of the treasure.

Captain Morstan Quotes in The Sign of the Four

The The Sign of the Four quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Morstan or refer to Captain Morstan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Spencer Blackett edition of The Sign of the Four published in 1890.
Chapter 4 Quotes

"'I have only one thing,” he said, “which weighs upon my mind at this supreme moment. It is my treatment of poor Morstan's orphan. The cursed greed which has been my besetting sin through life has withheld from her the treasure, half at least of which should have been hers. And yet I have made no use of it myself, so blind and foolish a thing is avarice. The mere feeling of possession has been so dear to me that I could not bear to share it with another. See that chaplet dipped with pearls beside the quinine-bottle. Even that I could not bear to part with, although I had got it out with the design of sending it to her. You, my sons, will give her a fair share of the Agra treasure. But send her nothing—not even the chaplet—until I am gone. After all, men have been as bad as this and have recovered.”

Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Major Sholto was the hardest hit. He used to pay in notes and gold at first, but soon it came to notes of hand and for big sums. He sometimes would win for a few deals, just to give him heart, and then the luck would set in against him worse than ever. All day he would wander about as black as thunder, and he took to drinking a deal more than was good for him.

One night he lost even more heavily than usual. I was sitting in my hut when he and Captain Morstan came stumbling along on the way to their quarters. They were bosom friends, those two, and never far apart. The major was raving about his losses.

“It's all up, Morstan,” he was saying, as they passed my hut. “I shall have to send in my papers. I am a ruined man.”

Related Characters: Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) (speaker), Major Sholto (speaker), Captain Morstan
Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

“Well, Small,” said the major, “we must, I suppose, try and meet you. We must first, of course, test the truth of your story. Tell me where the box is hid, and I shall get leave of absence and go back to India in the monthly relief-boat to inquire into the affair.”

“Not so fast,” said I, growing colder as he got hot. “I must have the consent of my three comrades. I tell you that it is four or none with us.”

“Nonsense!” he broke in. “What have three black fellows to do with our agreement?”

“Black or blue,” said I, “they are in with me, and we all go together.”

Related Characters: Jonathan Small (The Wooden-Legged Man) (speaker), Major Sholto (speaker), Captain Morstan
Related Symbols: The Agra Treasure
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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Captain Morstan Character Timeline in The Sign of the Four

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Morstan appears in The Sign of the Four. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 — The Statement of the Case
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
...the facts of her case, as Holmes watches her gleefully with “hawk-like” features. Her father, Captain Morstan , who was an officer in the Indian regiment of the British forces, had been... (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Miss Morstan continues that, though her father made it to London, he subsequently disappeared, and she never saw him again. Among his... (full context)
Chapter 3 — In Quest of a Solution
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
...the Lyceum theatre, Miss Morstan explains that Major Sholto was a “very particular friend” to her father . Her father’s letters were full of allusions to the major and their time together... (full context)
Chapter 4 — The Story of the Bald-Headed Man
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
...paintings and tapestries, with two tiger-skins spread upon the floor. Thaddeus crudely lets slip that Captain Morstan died from a heart attack; his lack of awareness angers Watson. (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
This treasure, continued Major Sholto at the time, had come into his and Captain Morstan ’s possession in India. When Morstan had come back to London, he went to Sholto... (full context)
Chapter 7 — The Episode of the Barrel
Wealth Theme Icon
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...as Jonathan Small, one of the signatories on “the sign of the four” map in Captain Morstan ’s possession. He assumes that Small must have been a convict under the guard of... (full context)
Chapter 12 — The Strange Story of Jonathan Small
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...his incarceration, he learned about medication and healthcare, helping the camp surgeon. Major Sholto and Captain Morstan were stationed at the same camp, often playing cards with the prison-officials. (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
...eventually lost quite a lot of money playing cards. Small decided to tell him and Captain Morstan about the treasure, offering to share it with them if they aided his escape. The... (full context)