Assessing the Significance of the Cityscape to the Narrative of Detection: The Sign of Four, and Farewell, My Lovely

2477 Words Jul 12th, 2018 10 Pages
The Sign of Four is a detective novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which was published in 1890. It is Conan Doyle’s second novel to feature detective Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is a master detective, known for his deduction skills, disguises and most importantly, his use of the city as means of solving mysteries. The cityscape plays a significant role in the narrative of The Sign of Four.

Conan Doyle uses real places found in London in The Sign of Four. It gives the novel a degree of realism, and Holmes the detective appears genuine to the reader. He certainly knows his way through the streets of London. At the beginning of the novel, Dr. Watson and Holmes are travelling across London to a meeting they know very little
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His biggest advantage as a detective in London is use of networking. The Baker Street Irregulars are a group of homeless children Conan Doyle included in his Sherlock Holmes series several times. They are Sherlock’s eyes and ears on the streets of London, as he notes “they can go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone” (Conan Doyle 93) He can gather them all together with the help of their leader Wiggins, and then inform them of what they should keep an eye out for. They can assemble within a few hours, and are immediately ready to work. They provide unparalleled access to the murkiest parts of London’s underground. It is in The Sign of Four that Holmes notes “this is just the case where they might be invaluable” (Conan Doyle 89). Holmes manages to navigate the problems that the modern cityscape of the late 1800s throws at him, namely limited means of transport, by spreading his eyes and ears thinly across London. While it may be helpful to the cause, Holmes ultimately uses the Baker Street Irregulars to do his dirty work for him. This goes against the belief that Sherlock Holmes is a detective who avoids the harming of innocent people by using his mighty intelligence to solve crimes.

There is a sort of supremacy to be found in The Sign of Four with regards to the city. London is seen as a greater place than anywhere else on this earth. Here they have cocaine addictions, murders, criminals and

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