Post 7

Before we get into whether or not The Sign Of The Four is a racist book, we need to keep in mind that, as many people brought up yesterday, this novel was written in and takes place in the Victorian era- because of this, it is obviously not going to be up to the present-day standards for what does and does not constitute racism in literature. They had extremely different things back then that were the usual ways of society that are not treated as being all right today. Examples of these would be Social Darwinism, phrenology, physiognomy, and like we see in the story, referring to people/groups by names/words that are considered today to be extremely offensive. So you can’t take a present-day set of values, apply them to times in the past and expect them to fulfil the requirements and conditions of modern-day ethics. In a way, it is like taking a Roman chariot with a Roman driver, challenging them to a race with a fancy racing car, and wondering at the Roman chariot losing the race by a lot; it is absurd- that is, it is absurd to expect people from past eras to measure up to values from the present-day. Mind you, this does not at all mean that those olden ways of behaving and doing things are all right- not at all. And we can certainly still gawk at and find it completely wrong and absurd that these things happened back then. It merely means that things were different back then, and things are most likely are going to different in the future from how things are today- values and societies continually change, and thus it wouldn’t be that surprising to discover a practise today, such as shaking someone’s hand, might in the future be considered for some reason to be offensive (or at least frowned upon). Coming back to the question after considering this, I wouldn’t say that The Sign Of The Four is at it’s core a racist novel that should be banned- it was originally intended to be a Sherlock Holmes detective novel. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (like many in his time would do, because that was how society was back then) just happened to put numerous things in it that, although they were considered to be all right during his time, are now considered to be very offensive, demeaning, and racist today and would never be put in a present-day written novel. In other words, if Doyle were a present-day author writing a version of this novel today in this time, it most likely would be vastly different from this The Sign Of The Four and might be more akin to the Sherlock Holmes In The 22nd Century episode based off of this story, that never went at all into racist or offensive subjects.

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