The Sign of the Four


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Tonga is a native of the Andaman Islands who was aided by Jonathan Small when suffering from ill health. This made him feel a sense of loyalty towards Small, which explains why he accompanies him in attempting to recover the Agra treasure. Tonga’s portrayal in the book is extremely problematic: he is described as a savage “black cannibal,” painted more as an animal than a human being. He thus represents the deep racial prejudices of the Victorian era. Tonga uses poisonous blow darts as a weapon, killing Bartholomew Sholto with one and almost hitting Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson too. Tonga dies when Holmes and Watson shoot him during the boat chase. Notably, Tonga is given no dialogue at all throughout the entire novella, again reflecting the racial prejudice that his character embodies.

Tonga Quotes in The Sign of the Four

The The Sign of the Four quotes below are all either spoken by Tonga or refer to Tonga. 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 6 Quotes

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must be the truth? We know that he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney. We also know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no concealment possible. Whence, then, did he come?"

"He came through the hole in the roof," I cried.

Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“Now, then, listen to this. 'They are naturally hideous, having large, misshapen heads, small, fierce eyes, and distorted features. Their feet and hands, however, are remarkably small. So intractable and fierce are they that all the efforts of the British official have failed to win them over in any degree. They have always been a terror to shipwrecked crews, braining the survivors with their stone headed clubs, or shooting them with their poisoned arrows. These massacres are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast.' Nice, amiable people, Watson!”

Related Characters: Sherlock Holmes (speaker), Dr. John Watson, Tonga
Related Symbols: Tonga’s Blow Darts
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

At the sound of his strident, angry cries there was movement in the huddled bundle upon the deck. It straightened itself into a little black man—the smallest I have ever seen—with a great, misshapen head and a shock of tangled, dishevelled hair. Holmes had already drawn his revolver, and I whipped out mine at the sight of this savage, distorted creature. He was wrapped in some sort of dark ulster or blanket, which left only his face exposed; but that face was enough to give a man a sleepless night. Never have I seen features so deeply marked with all bestiality and cruelty. His small eyes glowed and burned with a sombre light, and his thick lips were writhed back from his teeth, which grinned and chattered at us with a half animal fury.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Sherlock Holmes , Tonga
Related Symbols: Tonga’s Blow Darts
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Sign of the Four PDF

Tonga Character Timeline in The Sign of the Four

The timeline below shows where the character Tonga appears in The Sign of the Four. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10 — The End of the Islander
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon us with half-animal fury.” When Holmes and Watson notice the man (later revealed as Tonga) pulling a short piece of wood to his lips, they fire their pistols at him,... (full context)
Chapter 11 — The Great Agra Treasure
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 12 — The Strange Story of Jonathan Small
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
Around this time, Small met Tonga, a native of the islands. Tonga was sick, but Small nursed him back to health,... (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
Tonga helped Small escape by bringing a boat. Small got past the guard by hitting him... (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
The Victorian Gothic Theme Icon
During this time, Small and Tonga earned a living by exhibiting Tonga at fairs as “the black cannibal,” at which he... (full context)
Empire and Imperialism Theme Icon
At Pondicherry Lodge, Tonga climbed up the roof with a rope tied round his waist so that Small could... (full context)
Rationality vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Holmes remarks that he was surprised to have nearly been hit by one of Tonga’s darts, given that he had found the casing with all the darts inside. Small reminds... (full context)