Empire and Imperialism
The Sign of the Four is the second story in the world-famous Sherlock Holmes detective fiction series. The novella is set in the late nineteenth century, a time when the British Empire was immensely powerful and wide reaching under the reign of Queen Victoria. The Empire is a significant presence in the book, both informing the particular details of the mysterious story, which are centered around the Agra treasure hidden in British-controlled India, and in…read analysis of Empire and Imperialism
Central to The Sign of Four is the idea of wealth and opulence—the Agra treasure at the heart of this Sherlock Holmes story represents a life-changing amount of riches. The book asks whether this kind of wealth equates to happiness, and whether it is right to pursue wealth at all costs. Different perspectives are presented by the life stories of different characters, ultimately culminating in a sense that being rich does not mean being happy.
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The Victorian Gothic
Doyle makes use of conventions from the Victorian gothic genre to lend his detective novella a heightened atmosphere of mystery and fearfulness. Though the novella is undoubtedly in the detective genre, ideas from the Victorian gothic imagination function as a theme throughout, informing the gloomy London setting and the function of the plot itself. Doyle uses elements from the gothic genre for two principal—and overlapping—reasons. Firstly, the story’s gothic elements inform and enhance the sense…read analysis of The Victorian Gothic