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Carol the Dabbler

The Sign of (the) Four

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The Sign of (the) Four (it has been published under both titles) is conjectured to be one of the stories that will be used in Series 3 of Sherlock, so of course I read it recently -- and I assume some of you either have read it or will read it soon -- so let's discuss it!

I've been mulling over Watson's reactions to Mary Morstan's potential-then-lost wealth. Would "our" John have similar reactions? I'm thinking, if I were interested in a man, would it matter to me if I were much better off than he was, and I don't really think so -- it would depend more on what he himself was like (intelligent, competent, hard-working, etc.). On the other hand, I suppose it might matter more to him than to me, since men seem to hate feeling that a woman has any kind of advantage over them (intelligence, income, height, etc.). What do y'all think? I'm also curious about any differences between the US and the UK in this regard.

Also, Holmes's comment about Miss Morstan at the end of the story intrigues me: "I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met, and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. She had a decided genius that way...." Hmm, that has possibilities for Sherlock!

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I'm not sure our John of the 21st Century would have had that reaction, at least, I would hope not, although I think there is an element of this kind of mentality in existence. And in Victorian England there was that thing about all of the woman's property becoming her husbands after marriage. She would lose a lot of her independence. Maybe the Watson of then was conscious of this aspect and would have felt guilty about it?

 

That would be interesting development as long as Moftiss didn't decide to kill her off as Sir Arthur obviously did. It would be nice to see this capable and brilliant woman square off against Sherlock especially as the life partner of John's it would make the whole relationship interesting and maybe humorous?

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I think a large part of the original John Watson's reaction to Mary's inheritence is the idea that he would be taking advantage of her. That is, taking advantage of her (possibly temporary) emotional dependence on Holmes and Watson as they attempt to retrieve the treasure.. Also, John does not feel he has much to offer her, a wounded Army veteraran with a small pension. Better (in his mind) to be accepted as an equal (in fortune). And also, the Victorian sensebility of fair play and appearnaces factor in to his reaction.

 

What would our contemporary John Watson think? He is a man of high ethical standards...he might need a lot of encouragement from a latter day Mary Morstan to declare himself; if she is in possesion of a fortune, and he is as he is, a wounded Army veteran with a small pension.

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Thank you for the refresher, Beth. I had forgotten that Victorian Watson did think that if Mary became rich he would not feel worthy of her.

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An excellent story, and I'm glad that Dr Watson does marry Mary Morstan. Strangely enough, though, Dr Watson doesn't even declare his love for Mary, to Mary, in the Jeremy Brett movie-length version of The Sign of the Four!

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It would seem that they wanted John a permanent resident in 221b with no interruptions. Seems a bit odd where they were trying to follow the canon so closely, until Jeremy got so sick. They had planned to do all 60 stories, long and short. It is also odd that they never did "A Study in Scarlet" either.

 

 

So, on that score, BBC Sherlock is the version closest to the canon as I can't think of any other Watson that was ever married.

 

Can only one think of a married Watson?

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That's an interesting point!

 

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I've moved the ensuing discussion of "A Study in Scarlet" to its own thread.

 

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About how Watson feels regarding Mary's supposed wealth: This is an old convention in Victorian love stories. Man loves woman but she is (or becomes ) rich and he is poor. Now, if he proposes, he can always be suspected of having "ensnared" her for her money and it will be said of her that she "married below her station". On the other hand, if the woman is totally destitute, he can't propose either, because then it would seem as if he were taking advantage of her. 

 

If the story is to end happily, the rich woman looses her money (or her expectation of it), the man is now free to approach her and she will always assure him that his love is the greatest treasure she can imagine. The destitute woman betrays her affection in some more or less subtle way (usually by breaking into a violent fit of tears). If she is really desperate, she flings herself into the arms of the hero, thus forcing him to marry her because he's touched her.

 

If you want an example: In Dickens' "Little Dorrit" you get both scenarios in one book. Plus the third big Victorian relationship problem: The woman who is insanely loyal to her father.

 

The love story between Watson and Mary Morstan is pretty unoriginal, to say the least. Doyle must have lost interest in it, because he hardly mentions her again and finally kills her off for no apparent reason (other than that Watson can move back in with Holmes).

 

When I first read "The Sign of Four", I was in my early teens and just happy that there was a girl on the case who was more than a damsel in distress (see Holmes' praise of her at the end). Now, I am afraid that Mary will have to prove some point for the BBC that "Sherlock" is not sexist and so will be laden with a lot of political correctness, being very "empowered" and so on. But maybe they'll still manage to make her interesting in her own right. After all, when I heard they were doing Irene, I went "oh no!" and none of my fears came true. 

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Jude Law is a married Watson in "Game of Shadows."

Sign of the four has so much to like in it. My favorite scene is at the end of chapter 8, when Watson is tired and Sherlock plays the violin until he falls asleep. And running around with Toby the dog. And the boat chase. And the mystery itself.

It almost seems that Mary and John falling in love was added in, or at least the engagement part. I will always wonder why ACD married off Watson. I like Mary, but she could of said no, or had a long engagement, why on earth would you want to separate your main characters? And then kill off the poor girl? That's a mystery worthy of Holmes!

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Well, my best bet is that the marriage was one of Doyle's attempts to get rid of Holmes. The whole conversation between the men when it is announced suggests that neither of them thought it possible then that their work together would continue. Holmes would have taken cases on his own, of course, but without his Bowell, there would have been no more stories about them and Doyle would have been free to write other things. Alas, the characters proved to strong for him.

 

Another reason could be that Doyle thought the book would sell better if it had a romance in it.

 

(And who knows - maybe even in late Victorian times, Doyle was afraid that readers would "get ideas" about Holmes and Watson and wanted to prove they were interested in women. "The Sign of Four" was followed by "A Scandal in Bohemia", after all. In the later stories, there are quite a few passages offering an "explanation" on why they put up with each other. Nice to read, especially Holmes' view of the matter, but never seemed really necessary to me. Unless Doyle was trying to discourage the kind of theories fans brim over with now. I used to think that "back then", it wouldn't have been any kind of an issue, but maybe I was wrong, especially if you take into consideration that the year 1895 saw Oscar Wilde's trial.)

 

Why poor Mary had to die later - no idea. Maybe Doyle just found it too annoying to have to explain for every case why Watson was there at all. I mean, he didn't just get rid of the wife, but the job as well. Watson sold his practice as soon as Holmes returned and became a full-time assistant and biographer.

 

I think back then, being widowed was a much more common experience than it is today. More like getting divorced from our perspective.

 

I fully agree with you that The Sign of Four is full of lovely little scenes and moments. I like the violin, too (and Toby, obviously) but my favorite is the ending. I so wish they'd do a version of that on "Sherlock", but I very much doubt they will.

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I fully agree with you that The Sign of Four is full of lovely little scenes and moments. I like the violin, too (and Toby, obviously) but my favorite is the ending. I so wish they'd do a version of that on "Sherlock", but I very much doubt they will.

 

  I wouldn't give up on it yet. From all the snippets we find in "Sherlock" from just this one Canon story, it's it a strong indication that Moffat and Gatiss like this particular Doyleian novel so we could still see more of it as the series progresses.

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But they do seem to have said good-bye to the cocaine (for reasons I fully understand), so how could they do the "something for everyone" bit I'm thinking of?

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  Maybe he allows himself a cigarette as Mycroft offered at the morgue that certain Christmas eve.  We will just have to wait and see if we catch anything of it especially at the end of Episode 2, "The Sign of Three".

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Just getting back to the marriage for a moment, the matter of a man marrying for money was not unusual in the Victorian age. The industrial revolution in Britain, wreaked havoc upon the Titled Gentry. The estate cottages became vacant, the stores had no one to sell their goods. Money poured out of the pockets of the Manor Lord attempting to retain his land and manor. Much land was sold off.

 

The solution to this was marrying into money. This is well illustrated in the series "Downton Abbey". Lord Grantham is facing the loss of his manor house and decides the only way out of the situation is to marry a rich American debutante. The Americans jumped at this idea because it gave them entrance into social circles they couldn't possibly attain otherwise.

 

So maybe afterall, Watson thought he could leave the meagreness of his practice if he came into some wealth.

 

Just my 2 cents.

 

 

Meyers

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Some of those are real stretches, but oh well, to each his own. Sounds like they had a lot of time to kill and fun besides.

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When Doctor Watson fell in love with Mary Morstan in the books, he fell in love with her. He briefly thought about what her fortune would mean to the both of them, but realized his feelings for her outweighed the fortune. When the fortune was lost, he realized he could be free to love her and Mary knew she loved him in return.

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Which could also answer some people's questions about "Last Vow."  I certainly find the analogy somewhat helpful in dealing with that episode.

 

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Which could also answer some people's questions about "Last Vow." I certainly find the analogy somewhat helpful in dealing with that episode.

Did I help..? :smile:

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Yup -- and we need all the help we can get when it comes to "Last Vow."  I've spent the past 2 1/2 months jumping through mental hoops in order to make some sort of peace with parts of it.

 

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I have read the sign of four about a year ago... When I heard the names of the series three episodes, i was excited about that because among four novels sign of four is my favorite..... However there is not a singe connection with original sign of four story.... Anyway It was still awesome episode so I was not disappointed.... But still i would like to see the episode based on this story.... It would be interesting to see how marry would meet jhon for the first time...... 

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Actually, there has already been an episode based largely on "Sign of Four," namely "The Blind Banker."  John meets and is immediately smitten by a woman with double initials.  The case involves a small killer house-breaking through a skylight, a priceless stolen treasure from Asia that's been smuggled into England, and deadly conflict among the thieves.  (Moftiss claim it's loosely based on "The Dancing Men," but several of us see many more similarities to "Sign.")

 

The only nods to "Sign of Four" within "Sign of Three" are the names of several characters (Mary Morstan of course, Jonathan Small, and Major Sholto) and two separate references to a dwarf with a blowgun.

 

I too would love to see how John met Mary.  Maybe in Series 4?

 

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ohh... I never noticed similarity in blind banker with any story........ I guess as moftiss says It is very loosely based on either stories. I have read both stories but never strike me till this point..... 

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When we heard there would be an episode called "The Sign of Three," we wondered what they were planning to use for a plot, since they'd already used the obvious one!

 

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