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

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

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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 about. Watson questions his own knowledge of the route, saying “at first I had some idea as to the direction in which we were driving; but soon, what with our pace, the fog, and my own limited knowledge of London, I lost my bearings and knew nothing save that we seemed to be going a very long way” (Conan Doyle 26). Sherlock Holmes, on the other hand, is completely at ease during their destination, with Watson noting that “Sherlock Holmes was never at fault, however, and he muttered the names as the cab rattled through squares and in and out by tortuous by-streets” (Conan Doyle 26). At this point, Holmes almost begins to show off his knowledge of the city in front of Mary and Watson, as he orders their driver in one direction after the other: “Priory Road. Lark Hall Lane. Stockwell Place. Robert Street. Cold Harbour Lane. Our quest does not appear to take us to very fashionable regions” (Conan Doyle 26-27). It is this inclusion of real place names from London that gives this fictitious detective story...


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