In The Sign of the Four, Tonga’s blow darts—small poisoned spears that kill their target—represent his position in the novella as the most simplistically evil figure, demonstrating his otherness through the darts’ strange foreign quality. Tonga, a native of the Andaman Islands, is portrayed as the most directly and unambiguously evil character, a problematic portrayal with a clearly racist bias against Tonga’s blackness and foreignness. The darts are displayed as a primitive weapon, contrasted with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s guns, which adds to the sense of Tonga as being intellectually and physically inferior to the other more Westernized characters. Bartholomew Sholto is the only character to get struck by one of the darts. The rictus grin that the poison leaves on his face is deliberately grotesque, intended to build a sense of fear and foreignness through the unusual manner of the death.
Tonga’s Blow Darts Quotes in The Sign of the Four
I stooped to the hole, and recoiled in horror. Moonlight was streaming into the room, and it was bright with a vague and shifty radiance. Looking straight at me, and suspended, as it were, in the air, for all beneath was in shadow, there hung a face,—the very face of our companion Thaddeus. There was the same high, shining head, the same circular bristle of red hair, the same bloodless countenance. The features were set, however, in a horrible smile, a fixed and unnatural grin, which in that still and moonlit room was more jarring to the nerves than any scowl or contortion. So like was the face to that of our little friend that I looked round at him to make sure that he was indeed with us. Then I recalled to mind that he had mentioned to us that his brother and he were twins.
“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!”
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.