The Sign of Four


Basic information

Abbreviation: SIGN (J. F. Christ, 1947)
Word length: 43,372 (C. E. Lauterbach, 1960)
First published: Lippincott's Magazine, February 1890. First book edition: Spencer Blackett, 1890. First American edition: P. F. Collier, 1891 (a piracy).
About the title: The original manuscript uses "The Sign of the Four," but that's not Arthur Conan Doyle's writing, so who knows how authoritative it is. Lippincott's magazine followed that reading, but the early book editions went with The Sign of the Four. Modern editions vary: Doubleday uses the four-word title, Oxford the five-word title.

Discussion Questions

  • What is the purpose of Sherlock Holmes’ drug addiction? What does it add to the character?
  • How is Holmes’ humanity portrayed in this text compared to the other texts?
  • How does Mary Moorstan differ from other female characters in the canon?
  • Is John and Mary’s future relationship apparent from their first interaction?
  • How does the representation of Tonga parallel ideas of British Colonialism?