What views did people have on people of different races in 1888?

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In The Sign of Four, there are many references to people of different races. To modern readers, some of the phrases used to describe them, like "savage" and "monkey-faced," may appear racist and outdated, but they are representative of how the population viewed people from other lands in 1888.

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In The Sign of Four, there are many references to people of different races. To modern readers, some of the phrases used to describe them, like "savage" and "monkey-faced," may appear racist and outdated, but they are representative of how the population viewed people from other lands in 1888.

In 1977, Edward Said, a professor of literature, coined the term "Orientalism" to describe the racial attitude that appears in books like The Sign of Four. According to Said, Orientalism was endemic in Great Britain and other imperialist nations, like the United States, at the end of the nineteenth century. Because these nations colonised lands abroad, especially in Asia and Africa, they came to view the native people as being culturally inferior, savage and uncivilised.

This attitude is also prevalent in Doyle's physical description of Tonga in The Sign of Four:

They are naturally hideous, having large misshapen heads, small fierce eyes and distorted features. Their feet and hands, however, are remarkably small.

Of course, Indians like Tonga were not really as hideous or misshapen as Doyle made out. This is, in fact, the extension of Doyle's cultural prejudices in his characterisation and, in this respect, his reviews are shaped by the imperial policies of Great Britain. 

You can find out more about Imperialism and Orientalism in the reference link provided.

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