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the big sleep resumem

Raymond Chandler
Plot overview
The novel opens on an overcast morning in mid-October. It is thundering, foreboding rain.
Philip Marlowe, a tough, cynical, yet honest private detective, is hired by the old, ailing General
Sternwood to help him "take care of" Arthur Gwynn Geiger, a homosexual (possibly bisexual)
pornographer who has been blackmailing the General with potentially scandalous pictures of
the General's daughter, Carmen Sternwood. Marlowe agrees to the task.
Marlowe's first assignment becomes complicated by and intertwined with a second plot, which
also has its roots in the initial meeting with Sternwood. General Sternwood mentions,
peripherally yet implicitly, the disappearance of his well- liked, ex-bootlegger son-in-law, Rusty
Regan. Rusty had been married to the General's eldest daughter, Vivian Sternwood.
Marlowe's first action is to stake out Geiger's shop, which turns out to be a pornography racket
disguised as a rare bookshop. After pinpointing Geiger, Marlowe follows the man to his house
and hides in wait outside. The night is rainy and Marlowe sees that Carmen Sternwood has
gone inside Geiger's house. There is suddenly a flash and a scream, which turns out to be the
flash of a camera and Carmen's reaction to the flash.
When Marlowe approaches Geiger's house to see what is happening, three gunshots ring out
inside the house, followed by the rapid footsteps of the escaping gunman. Entering Geiger's
home, Marlowe sees that Carmen is drugged and naked, sitting on a chair. Geiger, who had
been taking pictures of Carmen, is dead at her feet. The plateholder of the camera—which
ostensibly contains the pictures Geiger had taken of Carmen—is missing. Carmen seems
unaffected by what has transpired, and is in fact giggly, as she is so high on ether.
Later, Owen Taylor, the Sternwoods' chauffeur, is found dead in the Pacific Ocean, near the
fishing pier in Lido. It is unclear whether Taylor's death is a murder or suicide. As the plot
unfolds, Marlow begins to figure out that Taylor was in love with Carmen Sternwood, and that
it was Taylor who killed Geiger in retaliation for the naughty pictures of Carmen that Geiger
had taken.
Owen Taylor's death is not the only death linked to Geiger. Another character, Joe Brody,
appears and is eventually murdered. Brody and Agnes Lozelle, an employee of Geiger, have
been plotting a takeover of Geiger's smut racket. Brody is also in possession of the negatives
and prints of the scandalous pictures of Carmen Sternwood—pictures he uses to bribe
Carmen's sister, Vivian, for money. Later, when Marlowe tries to retrieve information from
Brody as well as the pictures of his client's daughter, Brody is murdered by Carol Lundgren.
Carol Lundgren, Geiger's homosexual lover, kills Brody because he thinks Brody killed Geiger.
Lundgren is imprisoned for the murder. Agnes is released from custody. The pictures are
returned to Marlowe, who takes care that they do not fall into the wrong hands again.
Ultimately, the newspapers release the story of the blackmail, but in a form that is nothing like
the true story. Marlowe's job is technically over, as he has taken care of Geiger and the
blackmailing. However, Marlowe, still curious about Rusty Regan's whereabouts, does not see
himself as finished. Marlowe thinks that perhaps the General believed Regan was somehow
involved in the blackmailing plot and that the General wanted to confirm whether or not this is
true. The second plot, that of Regan, begins to unfold as the other—that of the blackmailing—
is seemingly brought to a close.
Meanwhile, Marlowe realizes he is being followed by a man in a gray Plymouth sedan. The
man, who turns out to be Harry Jones, has information about where Mona Grant, Eddie Mars's
wife, is being kept in a hideout. Because rumors abound that Regan has run away with Mona,
Marlowe considers it significant to find out her whereabouts. Marlowe finds that Mona had
not actually run away with Regan; instead, her husband, Eddie Mars, has kept her in hiding for
his own protection, to keep everyone thinking that Regan is alive and has run off with Mona.
Harry Jones, who has paired up with Agnes Lozelle, offers this information to Marlowe, but
Jones is murdered the process by Lash Canino, Eddie Mars's vicious gunman.
Once Marlowe knows where Mona is he ventures out to find her. He arrives at the hiding
place, where he is beaten by Canino and handcuffed. Marlowe shares a scene with Mona,
whom he nicknames Silver-Wig because of her platinum wig disguise. Marlowe is attracted to
Mona. They have a moment together and they kiss. She seems to be a good person, but
Marlowe cannot manage to sway her away from her loyalty to Eddie Mars. Nevertheless,
Mona helps Marlowe escape from his ropes and, later, helps him kill Canino.
Everything comes to an end when Marlowe returns Carmen Sternwood's gun—the gun
Carmen had used to try to persuade Brody to return her pictures to her—to her, and Carmen
asks Marlow to teach her to shoot. Down in the abandoned Sternwood family oil field, Carmen
turns her gun on Marlowe in an attempt to kill him. Marlowe, however, foreseeing this turn of
events, has loaded the gun with blanks. He figures out, in the end, that Carmen killed Regan
and that Vivian paid Eddie Mars's man, Canino, to hide the body. Regan has thus been dead
throughout the entire novel, lying at the bottom of an oil sump on the Sternwood fields.
Marlowe solves the puzzle, allowing Vivian to go free as long as she gets Carmen the help she
needs to alleviate her insanity. Eddie Mars never receives just retribution. Marlowe and Vivian
promise not to tell the General about Regan because it would break his heart. The novel ends
with Marlowe's thoughts about death—"the big sleep"—as an escape, and with his thoughts of
Silver- wig.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Summary (resumen capítulo a capítulo)
Chapter 1
The private detective Philip Marlowe enters the Sternwood mansion in Los Angeles at 11:00 on
a morning in mid October. Marlowe is unusually clean and well dressed for the occasion of
meeting General Sternwood, an old oil baron, for a commission. Contrasting with the luxury of
the mansion and Marlowe's refined appearance is the weather outside, which is overcast and
threatening rain. Marlowe takes notice of many elements of the mansion's décor, including a
stained-glass panel of a knight rescuing a naked woman who is tied to a tree. Among a number
of other fineries that point to the Sternwood's wealth, Marlowe also notices a large oil portrait
of a general with "hot black eyes."
As the detective continues his catalog of the items in the house, a small, pretty, young
woman—somewhere in her early twenties—appears. She is highly flirtatious with Marlowe,
who introduces himself by the name of "Doghouse Reilly." The girl, who we later find out is
Carmen Sternwood, the youngest of the General's daughters, has a habit of biting her thumb
and giggling. Carmen throws herself back into Marlowe's arms and says, "You're cute…"—a
line she repeats throughout the novel from her lips.
The Sternwoods' butler, Norris, walks in while Carmen is still in Marlowe's arms, announcing
that the general is ready to receive Marlowe. Marlowe asks the butler who the girl is. He also
says to the butler, in his typically witty and brash style, "You ought to wean her. She looks old
Chapter 2
Marlowe follows the butler into the greenhouse, where the sick General is waiting. The
greenhouse is uncomfortably hot, filled with jungle-like greenery, and the air thick and moist,
suffused with a suffocating odor of wet orchids. They reach an open space where the sick and
dying General is sitting in his wheelchair. Marlowe sits down and accepts a drink of brandy,
and is told that he may smoke. The ailing General Sternwood explains that, like the orchids, he
seems only to be able to exist in this heat.
The two men have a fast-paced conversation. Marlowe describes himself briefly and the
General outlines the case that Marlowe is supposed to "take care of." The General says he is
being blackmailed, and not for the first time. He had been blackmailed in the past by a man
named Joe Brody, to whom he had to pay $5,000 in order for Joe to the General's youngest
daughter, Carmen, alone.
Now, the General is again being blackmailed through a scheme involving his daughter, by man
named Arthur Gwynn Geiger, who claims that Carmen has a number of gambling debts, for
which he provides three signed promissory notes. Sternwood shows Marlowe the promissory
notes, which carry Carmen's signature and date from September, the month prior. Also
attached is a card that carries the name of Mr. Arthur Gwynn Geiger and the name of his
business, "Rare Books and De Luxe Editions." The rare book business appears to be some kind
of cover for Geiger, who is asking for $1,000.
Sternwood then introduces another mystery when he mentions the disappearance of his sonin-law, Rusty Regan. The General had taken a liking to Regan because Regan had spent many
hours with the General in the hot greenhouse talking to him. Regan had been a soldier in the
Irish revolution, an illegal immigrant in the United States, and had married the General's eldest
daughter, Vivian Sternwood. After this aside about Regan's disappearance, the conversation
Marlowe exits the greenhouse to find Norris, the butler, ready to write out a check for him and
telling him that "Mrs. Regan"—Vivian Sternwood—would like to see him. Apparently Mrs.
Regan is curious as to why her father has called in a private detective.
Chapter 3
Marlowe enters Mrs. Regan's room, a highly ornate, high-ceilinged space. Vivian is beautiful
but Marlowe thinks she is "trouble." She is flirtatious like her sister, but in a less childish
manner. Vivian is also taller and stronger- looking than her sister. She has black, intense eyes
much like the portrait Marlowe has noticed in the Sternwood mansion.
Vivian and Marlowe have snappy discussion, mainly consisting of her attempts to find out what
her father is up to. Vivian tries to ascertain whether her father's hiring of Marlowe has
anything to do with finding her husband, Rusty Regan. Vivian's insistence and inquisitiveness
come across as suspicious to Marlowe.
Mrs. Regan tells Marlowe that her husband just drove away one day without saying anything,
and that his car was later found in a private garage. Marlowe, knowing it is what she wants to
hear, tells her that he has not been hired to look for Regan. Marlowe leaves abruptly, and not
on especially good terms with Mrs. Regan.
After leaving the house, Marlowe looks out onto the Sternwoods' oilfields. He realizes as he is
walking away from the house that the sky is black and that thunder is resounding nearby.
Marlowe, thinking about Geiger and the case at hand, makes his way to the Hollywood Public
Library to do a bit of research on rare books and famous first editions.
Detective Philip Marlowe immediately introduces us to Chandler's style and tone. Marlowe is
observant and direct and, as we soon find out, he is honest beneath his brashness. The first
indication that Marlowe is a "good guy"—and even perhaps a modern-day knight—is his
assertion, upon seeing the stained- glass panel of the knight rescuing the damsel, that if he
himself lived in the Sternwood house he would eventually have to climb up and help the knight
because the knight does not seem to be getting very far in his feat. Marlowe, then, is
symbolically characterized as a "knight" from the beginning pages of the novel. The stainedglass panel serves a dual purpose: it serves first as a symbol for the motif of knighthood that is
pervasive throughout the novel, and it also serves as a means of foreshadowing. The stained
glass prefigures the events in which Marlowe later must "rescue" Carmen Sternwood as the
events of the mystery unfold.
The stained glass is not the only bit of foreshadowing in these chapters. The ominous weather
is foreboding rain, mirroring Marlowe's foresight that Vivian Sternwood is "trouble."
Furthermore, there is the portrait Marlowe mentions over and over again throughout his visit
to the Sternwoods', and also the symbol of the greenhouse. The portrait reveals intensely dark
eyes that help set the dangerous mood of the novel. Marlowe compares both Vivian's and the
General's eyes to the dark eyes of the portrait, which points to the fact that there may be
more than meets eye below the surface of the Sternwood family. Just as the eyes in the
portrait form a porthole into the work of art, so too do the eyes of the characters allow a
glimpse of their true selves hiding beneath. The greenhouse also helps to set the mood and
the tone for the novel. It is damp and wet, the air is thick and oppressive, and orchids with
petals that feel like flesh surround Marlowe and the General. The greenhouse gives the
impression of entrapment, strangulation by heat and vines—adding to the mysterious and
ominous tone Chandler evokes.
Chapter 4
Marlowe drives to Geiger's bookshop to observe and see what kind of "business" goes on
there. An attractive woman in a black dress, who walks "with a certain something [not] often
seen in bookstores," greets Marlowe. He asks her several questions about a couple of first
editions—which he has just researched at the public library—in order to test the woman's
knowledge of rare books. The woman claims that the shop does not have what Marlowe is
looking for.
Marlowe says he will wait for Geiger to come into the store, under the guise that perhaps
Geiger may know a little more about the books Marlowe claims to be seeking. Marlowe sits
down, waits, and observes, smoking a cigarette. He sees a man entering and leaving the back
room with a wrapped package shaped like a book, but doing so with an air of mystery and
suspicion. When the man with the parcel is about to leave, Marlowe gets up and proceeds to
follow him. The man tries to lose Marlowe, but instead decides to play it safe and get rid of the
incriminating package he is carrying. Marlowe picks up the wrapped book that the man has
abandoned by tree. Thunder is still sounding outside.
Chapter 5
Marlowe continues to collect clues. He goes to a phone booth to find Geiger's home phone
number. He calls, but no one answers. It also dawns upon Marlowe to look for other
bookstores in the area of Geiger's store. He finds a small place nearby and shows his detective
badge to the woman at the front desk. Marlowe asks her the same questions he asked the girl
at Geiger's shop—this woman, however, knows the answers and responds to one of his trick
questions in a way that only someone who ran a real bookstore could. Marlowe tells the
woman that the girl at Geiger's store could not answer the questions and did not pick up on his
trick. Marlowe uses this evidence, along with his guile, to get a full description of Geiger from
the woman.
On his way out of the bookstore Marlowe opens the package he has been carrying with him.
He finds exactly what he knew he would: "smut." The nature of Geiger's racket is clear: he runs
a lending library of pornography from the back room of his store, fronting the operation as a
rare bookstore.
Chapter 6
Marlowe continues to watch Geiger's store until a man meeting the description of Geiger
enters. When Geiger leaves, Marlowe follows the man's car all the way to his house. As
Marlowe watches the house, he sees a white car pull up and park in the driveway. A young
woman gets out and enters Geiger's house. After she has gone inside, Marlowe checks the
white car's registration and finds that it belongs to Carmen Sternwood.
A while later, having observed the house through the night, Marlowe sees a flash go off inside
the house. He then hears a scream—one of shock more so than fear. As Marlowe approaches
the house to see what is happening, he hears three gunshots and then footsteps coming from
the house—the footsteps of someone escaping. Marlowe finally makes his way into the house
through the window and sees that there are two people inside: "Neither of the two people in
the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead."
These three chapters primarily advance the plot and continue to establish tone. We learn that
Geiger is running an illegal pornography business, that there is something going on between
Geiger and Carmen Sternwood, and that one of the people that has been in Geiger's house has
been shot.
Nevertheless, these chapters also contribute to the nature of the characters in the novel, and
touch on recurring themes such as Chandler's treatment of women. It is here that we begin to
recognize the "type" of woman that Chandler and his narrator, Marlowe, portray. The
dangerous power of seduction exemplified by sexy store clerks and seemingly childish wild
women brings into question the issue of power in The Big Sleep and how that power relates to
women. The scenarios that appear here cause us to ask whether the seeming power that
women have in the book is not, deep down, actually a kind of weakness. Marlowe continues to
engage in snappy and flirtatious repartee with women, most notably in his conversation with
the attractive bookseller across the street from Geiger's shop. The edgy and double-entendreladen style of writing consistently supports the mood. The bookstore girl reacts as most
women seem to react to Marlowe, with magnetism, flirtation, and attraction: "You interest
me. Rather vaguely," she says. He responds, with a businesslike but suggestive "I'm a private
dick on a case…" The implied sensuality builds and reinforces the world Chandler has created,
the world that would expand onto the big screen and would later connect him with the film
noir of the 1940s and 1950s.
Chapter 7
Marlowe describes the inside of Geiger's house: it is ornate and decorated with silks and
cushions, with oriental décor and furniture. Odd smells abound, including the scent of ether in
the air. Marlowe sees that Carmen Sternwood is in the room, sitting naked on a chair, with
"mad eyes." She seems unaffected by the shooting and unaware of her surroundings. She is
clearly drugged, on some combination that includes ether. At Carmen's feet, beyond the
fringes of the Chinese rug, lies the lifeless body of Geiger, who has been shot.
Marlowe begins to piece together the events of the night when he notices a hidden camera
pointing at Carmen. The camera is hidden in a totem pole with a camera flash bulb attached to
it. The bright light had come from the flash, and the yell had come from Carmen's surprise
when the flash went off. Marlowe dresses Carmen, who, in her state, is giggling and incapable
of dressing herself. Then, Marlowe walks over to the totem pole and realizes that there is no
plateholder in the camera—it is not in Geiger's hand either. Indeed, the film plate is missing
completely. Marlowe searches the house for the plate and fails. He does find something else,
however: a blue leather book filled with writing in some kind of code. Marlowe takes this book
with him, places Carmen in her car, and drives her home.
Chapter 8
When they arrive at the Sternwood mansion, Marlowe asks for Mrs. Regan, but learns she is
not in. The General is asleep, much to Marlowe's relief. Norris, the butler, takes Carmen and
offers to call the detective a cab. Marlowe, however, thinking ahead, refuses the cab so as to
make sure there are no traces left behind from his presence at the Sternwoods' that night. He
decides, instead, to walk the "rain-swept" streets back to Geiger's house. When Marlowe
reaches the house and enters it once again, he notices two things: there are two strips of silk
missing from the wall, and Geiger's body is missing.
Marlowe searches the house and cannot find the body. He finds a locked bedroom, which he
uses Geiger's keys to open. The room is different from the rest of the house—more
"masculine," according to Marlowe. He comes to the realization that whoever has moved the
body wants it to look like Geiger is missing, not murdered. Marlowe also believes that it is not
the murderer who has hidden the body, but someone else. The murderer left quickly, fearing
that Carmen, a witness, may have seen him. Marlowe thinks to himself and comes to the
conclusion that it is all right by him for the body to be hidden, as it will give him time to
surmise whether or not he can keep Carmen Sternwood off the record in terms of the
occurrences of the previous night.
After his thinking, Marlowe sits down to try and crack the code from the notebook he has
taken with him. All he can figure out is that the book is an encoded list, probably of customers.
There are many entries in the list, at least four hundred. That night, Marlowe returns home full
of drink, and falls into a sleep brimming with dreams from the night that has passed.
Chapter 9
The next morning is sunny, unlike any of the other days thus far. Marlowe wakes up thirsty and
hung over. He receives a phone call from Bernie Ohls, the D.A.'s chief investigator and the man
who told him about General Sternwood. Ohls says that a Buick has been found in the Pacific
Ocean with a body inside, apparently after driving off the Lido fishing pier.
Marlowe's first impulse is to ask whether the dead body is that of Rusty Regan. Ohls assures
Marlowe that it is not, but that he can come down to the pier with him to see for himself. Ohls
seems curious as to why Marlowe is searching for Regan, but Marlowe assures him that he is
When the two reach Lido, the police claim that evidence suggests the accident must have
occurred at around 10:00 the night before, but definitely no earlier than 9:30. Whether the
death is suicide or murder is ambiguous. The throttle of the car is set halfway down and the
body appears to have been hit on the side of the head, which makes it look like murder.
However, the car does not appear to have swerved, and had instead plowed a straight path
down the pier to the ocean, which makes it appear like a suicide.
When the body is brought up, Marlowe recognizes it as the Sternwoods' chauffeur, whom he
had seen during his first visit to the mansion. The young man's name is Owen Taylor. Ohls
informs Marlowe of Taylor's record: Taylor had attempted to take Carmen Sternwood away
with him to Yuma, Arizona, but Vivian Sternwood had them tracked down and had Taylor sent
to jail under the Mann Act. Ohls also tells Marlowe that Taylor was apparently in love with
Carmen and wanted to marry her. Vivian seemed to have something against him, but when he
was released from jail the family rehired him.
Ohls says he is going to tell the Sternwood family of Taylor's death. Marlowe asks him to leave
the "old man" out of it, which Ohls finds odd. Ohl's questions once again bring up Marlowe's
suspicious interest in Regan. At the end of their conversation, Marlowe heads out for Geiger's
store for another round of investigation.
These chapters again are laden with descriptive details. In Chapter 7, Geiger's room is
described as lavish and ornamented. It is juxtaposed against the description of the one bare
and "masculine" room in the house, which Marlowe finds later during his second visit. It is here
that we begin to see how Chandler and Marlowe see Geiger's feminine and ornate
surroundings. We later find out that Geiger is a homosexual or possible bisexual; Chandler's
description of Geiger's house foreshadows this. The portrayal of the homosexual is not an
altogether positive one, especially when juxtaposed against the likeable, heterosexual
Marlowe. However, there seems to be a great deal of male fraternity throughout the novel
that is portrayed in a positive light. The close friendship between Regan and the General seems
a positive one, although we may bring it into question as a homosexual one. Also, the
relationship between Marlowe and the General seems, somehow, to mirror that earlier
relationship between Regan and the General. This ambiguous tone of possible homosexuality
continues throughout portions of The Big Sleep.
These chapters also continue the exploration of several elements introduced earlier in the
novel. We see the first instance in which the weather is sunny, which may mean that elements
of Marlowe's puzzle are somehow falling together. When Carmen's eyes are described as
"wild," we immediately know to pay closer attention to her as a character, due to the previous
references to the eyes of the portrait, the eyes of the general, and the eyes of Mrs. Regan.
Furthermore, we are again forced to look at Marlowe as a modern knight. Here, we see the
reenactment of the event in the stained glass from the first chapter: Marlowe rescues a naked
Carmen from her chair before the camera and takes her home. It is now Marlowe's duty to
solve the puzzle he has before him in order to make himself a more efficient knight than the
one in the stained glass. Nevertheless, Marlowe has already proven himself more efficient in
taking the initiative of dressing Carmen and seeing that she gets home safely. He continues to
act in this chivalrous vein when he is thankful for the possibility of leaving her out of the
scenario all together. Marlowe is not only a gentleman and a good detective, but he is also a
good employee who wants to protect the reputation of his clients. Marlowe does not want to
cause General Sternwood the heartache of seeing his daughter drugged and indisposed, and
he does not want to taint the Sternwood name any further by allowing Carmen to be placed at
the scene of the crime. Later, Marlowe asks chief investigator Ohls to please keep the General
uninformed about what occurred with Owen Taylor, again, in an effort to protect the General
from his own family.
However, questions arise out of the above "knightly" behavior. Is Marlowe truly being a good
detective by not providing the police with all the information he possesses? Is he being a good
citizen? Does a good employee really not tell the whole truth to his employer? Perhaps the
answer to these questions lies in an understanding of what it means not only to be a knight but
a modern knight, existing within the moral and ethical confines of 1930s Los Angeles.
Chapter 10
Back in Geiger's bookstore, Marlowe tells the attractive blond in the front that his last visit was
nonsense, that what he really wanted was to talk to Geiger because he had something Geiger
would want. Marlowe tells the woman that he is "in the business too." She becomes uneasy
when Marlowe insists on seeing Geiger one way or another. She claims, nervously, that Geiger
is out of town, and asks Marlowe to come back tomorrow.
Before Marlowe can respond, a young man opens the back door. Before the young man can
close the door, Marlowe notices that there is much movement in the back room. He realizes
that Geiger's stock of pornography merchandise is being moved out.
Marlowe exits the store, gets into a taxi, and follows the small black truck leaving Geiger's
shop. He tails the truck all the way to the garage of an apartment building. When Marlowe
gets out of the car to investigate, he looks over the names on the mailboxes to the apartment
building. One of the names reads "Joseph Brody." Marlowe takes note of the apartment
because he recalls that one Joe Brody had once bribed General Sternwood for $5,000.
Later, to confirm, Marlowe goes out to the garage and asks the man unloading the truck where
all the merchandise was going—not surprisingly, it is all going to Brody. After collecting all the
information he could, Marlowe gets back into the cab and goes downtown to his office, where
he has a client waiting for him.
Chapter 11
The client waiting for Marlowe is Vivian Sternwood. She says she knows about what happened
to Owen Taylor and she admits that he was in love with her sister, Carmen. Marlowe tells
Vivian that Taylor had a police record in order to gauge her response. She only responds that
Taylor "didn't know the right people. That's all a police record means in this rotten crimeridden country."
However, Owen Taylor is not what Vivian has come to discuss—she has come to discuss the
fact that she is being blackmailed. She received a letter, addressed to her, along with a picture
of her naked sister. Later, a woman telephoned to demand $5,000 for the return of the rest of
the pictures and the negatives. After Vivian's is finished telling the tale, Marlowe interrogates
her to find out where she spent the previous night. She claims to have been at Eddie Mars's
Cypress Club. Marlowe also asks her what Taylor was doing with her car the night before. She
claims not to have known he had taken it.
Marlowe says that he might be able to help Vivian, but that he is unable to tell her how or
why. She responds flirtatiously, telling him that she likes him and that she will get the $5,000
from Eddie Mars. She adds another piece of information: she tells Marlowe that it was Eddie
Mars's wife, Mona Mars, with whom Rusty Regan, Vivian's husband, ran away. Vivian again
slyly probes the question of whether Marlowe is searching for Regan. He again tells her he is
not. The conversation continues in a flirtatious vein until it is evident that Marlowe is not
playing Vivian's game. She leaves, once again, on a bad note.
Later, Marlowe speaks with Ohls, who continues to say that the police do not know whether
Owen Taylor's death was a murder or a suicide. Ohls also says that he checked with the
Sternwood residence and that everyone was home the night before, aside from Mrs. Regan,
who was down at the Cypress Club. Ohls confirmed the information with a boy he knew on one
of the gambling tables at the Club.
Marlowe goes to retrieve his car, which has been towed. He verifies that nothing has been
printed yet in the papers about Geiger's death. Finally, he takes another look at Geiger's coded
Chapter 12
Marlowe returns to the scene of the crime at Geiger's house, only to find Carmen Sternwood
in the house. In the daylight, everything from the night before looks dirtier: "all this in the
daytime had a stealthy nastiness." Carmen asks Marlowe if he is the police. He tells her that he
is not, but that he is rather a friend of her father. Marlowe asks Carmen who killed Geiger.
When he suggests Joe Brody, she reacts strongly and says that yes, it was Joe Brody who did it.
As Marlowe tries to get information from her, she turns into the Carmen Sternwood we are
familiar with: dumb, giggly, and flirty, with an edge of nastiness.
Carmen says that her sister, Vivian, told her Marlowe's name was not Reilly, that it was Philip
Marlowe and that he was a private detective. Marlowe tells Carmen that the photograph she
came back to look for—whether she admits it or not—is gone. He asks her again about Brody,
about whether she truly believes he was the killer. She nods her head in affirmation. Suddenly
Carmen says she wants to leave but, just as she is about to, they hear a car coming up the
driveway. Carmen becomes afraid. Someone begins to open the door—a man enters the
house and sees them both.
In these chapters, elements of the story begin to come together, and the plot thickens.
Chandler incorporates the hints about Joe Brody that he introduced earlier, and continues to
establish tone and mood. Vivian Sternwood's quote about Owen Taylor's is particularly
significant, as it describes the Los Angeles that Chandler wishes to evoke. When Vivian says
that Owen did not know the "right people," it could be taken as implying that the Sternwoods
themselves are not the "right"—that is, if we take the word "right" to mean "good."
Furthermore, Chandler reveals more of Vivian and, because we see her through Marlowe, we
learn more about Marlowe as well. When Marlowe finds Vivian in his office, there is a mention
of Marcel Proust—an allusion to her education and Marlowe's lack of "refinement," as he does
not know who Proust is. We get the sense that Vivian "wears" her money and her education
openly, though she does not, so to speak, wear her true self on her sleeve. Indeed, we are
constantly reminded, through implication and via Marlowe's cross-examination, that Vivian
appears to be hiding something. It is also important to note that Marlowe does not give into
Vivian's temptations. He resists her, but he is human; he finds her attractive, as she does not
repulse him to the extent her sister does, perhaps because she is not as overtly "dirty."
Therefore, we begin to realize that Marlowe, despite his seeming toughness and crassness, is
quite human, and perhaps even sensitive.
Ohls, in these chapters, is an aid to Marlowe but also appears a bit corrupt. Ohls can verify that
Vivian was at Eddie Mars's Cypress Club only because Ohls himself knew people who were
there, which would imply that he, himself, is a gambler, or at least employs them as
informants. Even the law is involved in such activities in Los Angeles: when Marlowe points this
out in his own sarcastic way, Ohls responds, "With the syndicate we got in this county? Be your
age, Marlowe." In short, the novel's knight is being told that he is naïve.
Chapter 13
The man who enters Geiger's house is Eddie Mars. Marlowe tries to talk himself out of the
situation, saying that he and Carmen are business acquaintances who stopped by Geiger's to
pick up a book. Mars does not believe Marlowe. He allows Carmen to leave, but tells Marlowe
he would like to talk to him a little bit longer. Mars then adds that he has two of his men
outside, who would be willing to do whatever he asks them to do with Marlowe. Carmen runs
for the door and leaves.
Eddie Mars claims that he senses something is wrong, and he then notices a spot of Geiger's
blood on the floor. Marlowe acts as if it is the first time he has seen the blood. When Mars
threatens to bring in the law, and Marlowe does not react, Mars asks Marlowe to explain who
he is. Marlowe tells him his name and says that he is a sleuth. Marlowe then continues by
saying that Carmen is a client whom Geiger had involved in blackmail—they had come to the
house in an attempt to solve the problem. The door had been open. When Marlowe asks how
Mars got a key to Geiger's house, Mars says that he owns the house Geiger lives in, and that
Geiger is therefore his tenant.
Geiger and Marlowe embark on what is one of the many quick, "hard-boiled" conversations in
the novel. Mars acts as if he simply wants to know what has happened to Geiger, as Geiger has
been missing from the store and nobody knows where he is. Marlowe tells Mars that he knows
who Mars is, and that he knows Mars probably provides the kind of "protection" that someone
like Geiger needs in the pornography business. Marlowe also adds that someone is trying to
move in on the business because he thinks Geiger is dead. Marlowe continuously plays on
Mars, revealing only what he wants, when he wants, in order to gauge Mars's reactions.
Eventually, Marlowe annoys Mars, prompting Mars to call for his "boys," his gunmen, with a
whistle. The two gunmen enter and, upon Mars's request, they frisk Marlowe for weapons.
They find that he is unarmed, that his name is in fact Marlowe, and that he also does in fact
have a detective license. In the end, Marlowe does not give any of the information he holds
about Joe Brody, Carmen, or anything else. Eventually, Mars lets Marlowe go. Marlowe goes
back to Hollywood.
Chapter 14
Marlowe goes back to Joe Brody's apartment building. He knocks on the door. Marlowe
eventually makes his way inside by telling Brody that he knows Brody has Geiger's books.
Marlowe says that he has the list of customers and that Brody should, therefore, talk. Brody
has a gun, and points it at Marlowe. Agnes Lozelle, the blond from Geiger's shop, is also in the
room. Agnes initially denies Marlowe's accusations about the kind of "smut" business Geiger
was running out of the bookshop.
Marlowe explains, however, that it may seem to others that Brody had every reason to have
committed the murder—even if he did not—in order to take over the porn racket that Geiger
owned and that Brody now has in his possession. Marlowe also says that he knows Brody has
the pictures, that he sent the blackmail letter to Vivian, and that Agnes was the female voice
that delivered the telephone message to Vivian. Brody, as he starts to give in to Marlowe's
pressure, relinquishes another clue. He asks if the "witness" Marlowe mentions regarding
Geiger's murder was the "punk kid" that worked at the store who disappeared after the truck
left. This young man is a new character whom we later learn to be Carol Lundgren, Geiger's
homosexual lover.
After a long talk, Marlowe realizes that Brody is telling the truth about not having been in the
house and not having been part of Geiger's murder. Brody explains that Carmen hates him
because he broke up with her for being too crazy for him. Being rejected, it seems, is not
something that Carmen likes. Marlowe finally convinces Brody to hand over the pictures, but
just as he is about to reach for them, the doorbell rings.
Chapter 15
Before he reaches for the door, Brody hands a gun to Agnes so that she can keep it pointed at
Marlowe. Brody also has a gun of his own. At the door is Carmen Sternwood, also with a gun in
hand. Carmen has come to take her pictures back. She claims that she saw Brody kill Arthur
Geiger, which is untrue, but which works as a framing device and as a reverse piece of
blackmail to accompany her gun. While Brody answers the door and Carmen catches him off
guard, Marlowe grabs the gun from Agnes.
A scuffle ensues. Agnes tries to get possession of her gun, but Marlowe hits her on the head. A
shot goes off between Carmen and Brody, and Marlowe ultimately ends up with all the guns in
his possession. Marlowe then forces Brody to hand over all the prints and negatives. Marlowe
sends Carmen home, ignoring her constant flirtation, as usual, and refuses to hand over her
pictures at the moment.
It is in these chapters that the hero and the anti-hero meet, the knight and the dragon, the
protagonist and the antagonist—Marlowe and Mars. Mars appears composed and hard;
Marlowe says he looks "hard, not the hardness of a tough guy. More like the hardness of a
well-weathered horseman. But he was no horseman." Marlowe is capable of lying to Mars in
order to protect what he knows and to continue to search out the truth. Marlowe does not
trust anyone and is hardly ever fooled; he can clearly see that Mars is suspicious. In this scene,
however, the hero of The Big Sleep does not appear to overtly win any kind of battle. In fact, it
may seem as though he is a bit overpowered: Marlowe is not able to leave the scene in
Geiger's house until Eddie Mars "allows" him to, for fear of his own safety. Furthermore,
Marlowe is unarmed. In his search for the truth, Marlowe has a formidable opponent.
We glimpse the unfolding of several more characters throughout these chapters. For instance,
we come to the conclusion that Mars does not taint his own hands with blood, but rather has
gunmen do his dirty work. We also come to conclusions about Carmen Sternwood, who,
entering Brody's apartment with a gun, suddenly appears crueler and more dangerous in her
madness than ever before. Another thing we learn about Carmen is that she does not like to
be rejected. As the story unfolds, this trait becomes a motive for barbarous acts. Marlowe, as
usual, keeps his cool and prevails, even managing the near-superhuman feat of obtaining all
the threatening guns at once.
Chandler juxtaposes different types of criminals in this section. Carmen, for instance, appears
to be capable of committing crimes without fully thinking about them; she is willing to kill
Brody, for example, simply because he has her pictures. Brody and Agnes are seemingly caught
in a world of crime in which they hardly belong. These two are archetypes of the kind of inept
criminal who is trying to make an easy buck, believing there is no other way out. Brody and
Agnes are not as intelligent, as cruel, or as dangerous as Eddie Mars. The fact that everyone in
the novel is involved of some kind of criminal activity—even Marlowe, who has committed a
crime by not relaying what he knows to the police—we are fully immersed in the various
shades of the seedy side of Los Angeles Chandler is trying to portray.
Chapter 16
After getting rid of Carmen, Marlowe is back in Brody's apartment, holding Carmen's small gun
in one hand. Marlowe asks where Brody works. Brody responds that he works in insurance for
Puss Walgreen. Marlowe wants to know more, especially how Brody got Carmen's picture.
Furthermore, Marlowe wants to make sure that Brody is not going to tell anyone that Carmen
was there that night with her gun. Brody asks to be paid for both his information and his
secrecy. Marlowe says it is possible for him to pay a small sum, nothing too big.
Brody claims that a "guy" slipped the picture to him, but then he adds to the story. Brody
claims to have been watching Geiger's house because he wanted to get into the "book racket."
He saw Vivian Sternwood's Buick park nearby and then he left. This would appear to make
sense, as Owen Taylor had been driving Vivian's car the night he murdered Geiger. Brody
further adds that he heard the gunshots and followed Taylor as he ran away. At some point
Taylor stopped, and Brody went up to him pretending to be a cop. Brody hit Taylor on the
head and stole the plateholder from the camera, not knowing what it held.
Then, after developing the negative, Brody came to realization that Geiger was the one who
had been shot—especially when he did not turn up at his workplace the next day. Brody then
decided to move in on Geiger's business. Marlowe appears satisfied by Brody's explanation, at
least in the sense that he believes Brody did not murder anyone. However, Marlowe continues
to question Brody, asking him whether he hid the body. Brody claims to know nothing about
this. The conversation continues until the doorbell rings once again.
Brody opens the door and is shot dead. Marlowe runs after the gunman, realizing that it is the
boy from Geiger's store, Carol Lundgren, who has killed Brody in the belief that Brody killed
Geiger, Lundgren's lover.
Chapter 17
Marlowe takes Lundgren to Geiger's house. They get into a fistfight when Marlowe asks
Lundgren to open Geiger's house with the key he is sure Lundgren possesses. Marlowe wins
the fight, ties Lundgren up, and beats him unconscious. The resilient Lundgren, however, has
only one response to everything Marlowe says: "Go —— yourself."
Marlowe opens the house and drags Lundgren inside with him. He looks around and discovers
that the smell of incense is coming from the room across from Geiger's, the one with the
masculine, bare air. As it turns out, Geiger's body is lying on the bed of that room, with the two
strips of Chinese silk from the wall spread upon him like a cross. There are candles and incense
burning around him.
Marlowe calls Ohls and asks whether a revolver was found on Owen Taylor's body that
morning, because it is at this point that Marlowe is sure Taylor killed Geiger. Marlowe tells
Ohls that the gun should contain three empty shells, and that if Ohls wants to know how
Marlowe knows this information, he should come right over to 7244 Laverne Terrace, Geiger's
Chapter 18
Ohls appears at the house. Marlowe tells him what has occurred, showing him Geiger's body in
the bedroom. They then make their way then to the home of Taggart Wilde, the District
Attorney. Marlowe explains to the D.A. and Captain Cronjager what went on, leaving out the
pieces of the story he has planned to leave out the whole time—the pieces about Carmen
Sternwood. From the conversation, we get the sense that there is a clear rivalry between the
private detective and the "coppers."
During the conversation it is implied that Marlowe is in some kind of trouble—or at least could
be—for withholding information from the law. Marlowe hands Lundgren over to police
custody. The D.A. tells Marlowe that any cop would be upset about the cover-up, and that
Marlowe will have to make statements about what he has just said. The D.A. agrees to attempt
to keep General Sternwood out of the killings, and even agrees to report them as two separate
killings. The D.A. appears to refrain from accusing Marlowe because he seems to admire that
Marlowe is doing detective work for a pauper's fee. The D.A. also is connected to Sternwood
because his father was a close friend of the General and has protected him, using his
capabilities of his position, many a time in the past. The D.A. feels sorry for the General
because of his "wild" daughters. Finally, the issue of Rusty Regan comes up again. The D.A.
says that he believes the General probably thinks that Regan is involved, somehow, in all of
what has transpired.
As before, Chandler again shows us that there are different calibers of criminals in the Los
Angeles underworld. We have just come from reading about Eddie Mars, who will turn out to
be the greatest criminal in The Big Sleep, and are then led straight into examples of common
criminals such as Joe Brody and Agnes Lozelle. Both of them appear to be involved in crime
simply out of a necessity for money—they seem to be caught in a realm where they do not
belong. We may even feel sorry for them to some extent. Agnes is constantly blaming others—
Brody, in this case—for her plight, and she often acts as somewhat of a victim. Alternatively,
we may view both Agnes and Brody as victims of the broader American society Chandler is
This section also further explores Marlowe's nobility and the idea of homosexuality. Carol
Lundgren, Geiger's lover, has apparently killed for love, and has affectionately wrapped
Geiger's body and surrounded it with incense. Such an act seems endearing, almost beautiful.
Marlowe had been hard on Lundgren at the beginning of the chapter that includes the finding
of the body. Now, however, when Marlowe actually sees the body, it seems for a moment that
he feels empathy for the boy. After having called Lundgren all kinds of names and after beating
him to a pulp, after he finds the body Marlowe asks, "Want to sit up, son?" Though Marlowe
may be delivering this line with a hint of sarcasm, it seems so out of place that we cannot help
but wonder whether Marlowe feels true sympathy for the boy's love. This is not to say that
Marlowe has not spoken of—and will not continue to speak of—homosexuality in derogatory
terms, using words like "queen," for example. Indeed, Marlowe does continue to be a
homophobic character, perhaps merely a product of the society of his time. Nonetheless, it is
important that other relationships in the novel—such as that between General Sternwood and
Rusty Regan, for instance—do at times appear to be associated with homosexual overtones.
Though Marlowe appears homophobic, he does seem to have a great deal of nobility, tying
him to once again to the figure of the knight. The D.A. seems to admire Marlowe for doing
detective work for such a pittance. Indeed, Marlowe gives a speech, later in the novel, as to
why he does what he does for such little money; he claims that it is simply because he protects
his clients with "what little guts and intelligence the Lord gave [him]." Again, the honorable
Marlowe shines through, even if his honor is juxtaposed against what the law asks of him.
Chapter 19
Someone from Eddie Mars's place comes around to see Marlowe, telling the detective that
Mars wants to see him. Marlowe refuses to go. He later receives a call from Mars, who tells
Marlowe not to tell the police anything about him. As a reward for not telling the police
anything, Mars is willing to give Marlowe protection, as well as information that may help
Marlowe find Rusty Regan. Although Marlowe claims not to be looking for Regan, he tells Mars
that he might go down and see him sometime.
Then Marlowe calls the Sternwood house and gives the butler a message to pass on to Vivian:
he has the pictures of Carmen and everything is alright. Marlowe's phone continues to ring
incessantly all through the night, but he refuses to pick it up.
Marlowe reads the newspaper accounts of Geiger's murder, which differ substantially from the
way the events really occurred. They report, for example, that Owen Taylor definitely
committed suicide, and do not link him at all with Geiger's slaying. The papers do not give any
credit to Marlowe or Ohls, instead crediting Captain Cronjager for solving the murders himself.
Chapter 20
Marlowe goes to see Captain Gregory of the Missing Persons Bureau. After proving that he
knows the D.A., Marlowe asks the Captain for information about Regan. He is trying to found
out whether the Missing Persons Bureau is working on Regan's case. Marlowe claims that he is
interested because he wants to make sure Regan was not involved in blackmail.
Captain Gregory tells Marlowe that Regan disappeared on September 16 and that his car was
found in a private garage four days later. They do not know who placed the car there, as the
car is completely devoid of fingerprints. Furthermore, the Captain confirms what Marlow
already knows about Regan having apparently left with Mars's wife. The Captain also adds that
Regan always carried $15,000 in his pockets. He shows Marlowe a photograph of Regan, who
does not, according to Marlowe, have the "face of a tough guy" but also does not have the
"face of a man who could be pushed around much by anybody."
Captain Gregory eliminates the possibility that Mars murdered Regan out of jealousy, his
reasoning being that such an act would have been too obvious, considering the fact that
Mars's wife left with Regan. The Captain contends that Regan and Mona Mars probably left in
Mona's wife's car. The Missing Persons Bureau does not have much evidence and, therefore,
not much of a case. The Captain says the best thing to do is to wait until Regan and Mrs. Mars
run out of money and leave a traceable mark somewhere. He claims that it will probably take a
while to find Regan.
The Captain's resignation irritates Marlowe, as his client, General Sternwood, might not live to
see the day when Regan is found. After he leaves the office, Marlowe notices that a gray
Plymouth sedan is following him. He is, however, able to shake the car off his tail.
Chapter 21
Marlowe receives a call from the Sternwood butler, Norris, who informs him that the General
has told him to give Marlowe a check for $500 and to consider the case closed. Marlowe,
however, continues to think about Regan after he hangs up the phone. Much like the Captain,
Marlowe eliminates the possibility that Eddie Mars was Regan's assassin. Marlowe then begins
to review the entire case he has just "closed." He realizes that the "smart" thing to do would
be to, indeed, leave the case where he had left it. However, he calls up Mars and tells him he
would like to speak to him that evening.
Marlowe arrives at the Cypress Club that night. It is very foggy out. Marlowe begins to talk to
Mars, who tells Marlowe that Vivian Regan is out gambling in the casino. Mars thanks Marlowe
for not mentioning him to the police and says he is willing to give Marlowe something in
return. Marlowe tells Mars that General Sternwood would like to know where Regan is. Again,
Marlowe brings in the blackmail angle and Regan's possible ties to it.
The two men continue to talk. Mars brings up Vivian, who is bad business for him because of
the way she gambles. Marlowe says he would like to take a look around, and Mars continues
to say that perhaps, one of these days, he will be able to repay Marlowe for not telling the
police about him—that one day he will be able to do Marlowe "a real favor." Before he
departs, Marlowe asks Mars if he has anybody following him in a gray Plymouth sedan. Mars
says he has not, but he looks surprised.
In the inaccurate, sensationalistic newspaper reports we see that, in Chandler's Los Angeles,
even the law and the journalists work crime to their advantage. This additional facet of
Chandler's social criticism further highlights the contrast between Marlowe and the law and
the rest of Los Angeles. Nonetheless, Marlowe can be seen as corrupt in some ways: "I had
concealed a murder and suppressed evidence for twenty-four hours, but I was still at large and
had a five-hundred-dollar check coming. The smart thing for me to do was to take another
drink and forget the whole mess." Indeed, Marlowe appears corrupt in many ways: he has
gone against the law and is taking money for it, a greater sum than he has expected. However,
Marlowe, unlike the law, cannot simply forget, as he feels a need to seek out truth and to
deliver a job well done for his client, Sternwood. Nevertheless, we must question what
differentiates the newspapers' cover-up from Marlowe's continual refusal to bring the
Sternwood name to its proper place in the events that have transpired. Marlowe appears to
have certain obligations, and picks and chooses which to fulfill among them. Ultimately, he
chooses to be faithful to his client above the law.
In this section we also see Marlowe stand up to Mars in a way he has not done before. We
might say that, at this point, Mars still has control because he has succeeded in convincing
Marlowe to keep Mars's name out of the police investigation. However, we sense that it may
also be possible that Mars only thinks he has Marlowe under his wing.
By this point in the novel we know how to read certain cues Chandler provides. First, we know
that the fog in the air on the night Marlowe visits the Cypress Club forebodes something. The
fact that the fog is linked to the scene with Mars makes us feel uneasy about Mars and about
what might transpire behind his walls. Furthermore, we have learned to read the reactions of
the characters just as Chandler would like us to. Therefore, when Mars reacts with surprise—
when he seems "jarred"—at the mention of the Plymouth, we know to expect something to
come out of that surprise in future chapters.
Chapter 22
The ambience in the Cypress Club is dark and sultry, not glitzy like other spots in Hollywood.
Nonetheless, it is beautiful, as signs of its previous state as a ballroom show through. Vivian
Sternwood is playing roulette and bidding high—so high that the croupier does not want to
allow her to place her bet. Eddie Mars is called in. Vivian wants to play everything she has,
$6,000. Mars places his wallet on the table and tells the croupier to cover the bet with Mars's
own money. Vivian wins. Mars, seemingly unfazed, returns to his office.
As Vivian collects her winnings and belongings and gets ready to leave, Marlowe exits. Outside,
Marlowe sees something in the dark. It is an incredibly foggy night. He hears a man cough and
realizes that the man is wearing a mask. Marlowe then waits behind a tree to calculate his next
move, to see what this masked man is up to.
Chapter 23
Marlowe hears the steps of a woman approaching. The masked man jumps out and holds the
woman up at gunpoint. The woman is Vivian Sternwood, and the masked man wants the
money she has just won at the roulette table. Marlowe comes out from behind the tree,
manages to surprise the masked man, and takes the man's gun from him. Marlowe tells him to
go ahead and leave; he will not say anything if the man in the mask does not either. Vivian
thanks Marlowe sarcastically and asks him what he is doing at the Cypress Club. Marlowe
responds that he had gone to see Mars to find out why Mars thought he was looking for
The two walk over to Larry Cobb, the Man who had been Mrs. Regan's escort for the night.
Cobb is very drunk in the car garage. One of the Cypress Club workers promises to call Cobb's
home and have him picked up. Marlowe agrees to take Vivian home. She seems nervous while
they walk toward the car in the fog, as if the holdup has just hit her.
They stop by a drugstore and drink coffee, which Marlowe laces with rye. Marlowe tells Vivian
she has "wicked eyes." He asks her what it is that Mars has on her, what he knows about her.
Vivian says that Mars probably sent the masked man merely to recover the money she just
won at Mars's expense. The conversation continues back in the car. Vivian asks Marlowe to
drive down to the beach club because she wants to see the water. She throws herself at him,
and they kiss.
Marlowe remains focused, however; even in the heat of the moment he has not forgotten
what he is after. He again asks Vivian what Eddie Mars has on her, and she becomes upset.
Marlowe tells her he believes the holdup was all an act—an act possibly staged for Marlowe's
"benefit." Again, the two end their conversation on a negative note. Marlowe drops Vivian off
at her house.
Chapter 24
Marlowe returns to his apartment and notices the scent of a woman's perfume in the air. He
realizes that Carmen Sternwood is lying naked in his bed; the manager has let her in. She had
shown the manager Marlowe's card, which she had stolen from Vivian, and had claimed that
Marlowe wanted her to wait for him in his apartment. Marlowe, upon seeing Carmen, walks
over to a chessboard and plays his knight while Carmen continues to giggle in bed. The sound
makes him think of "rats behind the wainscoting."
Marlowe refuses Carmen's advances and tells her to get dressed. She ignores him and
continues to giggle. He looks down at his chessboard and sees that the move he played with
his knight was a wrong move. He takes back the move and thinks to himself: "Knights had no
meaning in this game. It wasn't a game for knights." Carmen becomes upset when Marlowe
continues to refuse her and continues to tell her to get dressed and go home. Finally, she
A number of the novel's themes and motifs resurface in this section. First, the eyes resurface.
The Sternwood portrait's dark eyes now belong to Vivian, as Marlowe tells her to her face that
she has wicked eyes. Here, Vivian appears conniving and also possibly wickeder than we have
previously thought her. If, as Marlowe believes, it is true that the holdup was merely an act for
Marlowe's "benefit" staged by Vivian and Mars, we see that the plot is more complicated and
twisted than we thought. To use Marlowe's own phrase, there are "rats behind the
Vivian also mirrors the casino at the Cypress Club, as both are described in a manner that
implies that something lies beneath the surface. The Cypress Club is a seedy place in many
ways, but the wooden beauty of its old ballroom shows through, a reminder of what the place
once was. Vivian, in much the same way, appears beautiful, but her eyes hide what lies within.
Indeed, both Vivian and Carmen show themselves to be evil temptresses and cruel
seductresses. This is precisely the woman that will become a staple of later film noir: the
beautiful woman no one can trust.
Furthermore, the knight motif is played out once again, this time with obvious symbolism. The
foreshadowing of the stained-glass panel comes up again when Marlowe, for the second time,
in some sense "rescues" the naked Carmen. The knight is again rescuing the damsel, this time
from herself. In chivalrous fashion, he refuses to take advantage of her, and is even in many
ways disgusted by her. The chessboard and the knight he plays upon it become obvious
symbols. Again, we are faced with the plight of the modern knight, emphasized by Marlowe's
comment that knights have no meaning in the game. Despite his lack of idealism, Marlowe
nonetheless does not take advantage of Carmen, just as he has not, earlier, fallen to the
temptations of Vivian.
Despite Marlowe's seeming nobility, Chandler unequivocally illustrates that his character is
human. In the same chapter in which he describes Marlowe as "knightly," Chandler also makes
him seem almost savage. Chapter 24 ends with Marlowe's frustrated aggression, as he rips the
bed sheets to shreds. This action shows Marlowe's strange, pent violence towards women that
is illustrated later when Marlowe says, "Women make me sick." Though these lapses put
Marlowe's nobility in question, we must remember that it is likely Chandler is not saying that
Marlowe is a perfect gentleman or a perfect medieval knight. Instead, it Marlowe
isattempting to be a knight in the modern world—a place, as Marlowe himself rightly notes,
that is not fit for knights.
Chapter 25
Marlowe wakes up in the morning, disgusted by women. He gets dressed and walks outside to
into a rain-filled day, only to realize that the gray Plymouth sedan that had been tailing him is
parked across the street. He runs through his mind, wondering who might be in the car. When
Marlowe gets to his office building, he confronts the man in the Plymouth, who has followed
him the whole way, and tells him that if he has anything to say he can go upstairs and talk to
Marlowe in his office. In characteristic style, he leaves the man behind and walks up to his
office to find a check for $500 from General Sternwood. The buzzer rings and the little man
from the Plymouth appears. His name is Harry Jones.
Harry Jones has information that he is willing to sell Marlowe for $200. Marlowe guesses that
Agnes Lozelle is somehow involved in this offer. Jones's information is that Mona Grant did not
run away with Regan, but that she is instead being kept in a hideout by Eddie Mars so that
everyone will keep on believing Regan ran off with her.
Jones also brings Lash Canino, Mars's gunman, into the picture. Jones says that he came about
this information through Joe Brody, who was investigating the Regan-Mona situation because
he was trying to make money off of it. Amidst it all he saw Mrs. Regan in a car with Canino.
Mrs. Regan knows Canino and Canino is Mars's friend. Therefore, Joe Brody came to the
conclusion that Canino knows something about Regan and is trying to make his own money off
of the situation.
Agnes stumbled upon Mona Grant by coincidence. Jones says that Agnes will tell Marlowe
where Mona's hideout is when he gives Agnes the money. Marlowe does not quite understand
why or how Harry and Agnes are doing this. Jones responds, "[Agnes is] a grifter, shamus. I'm a
grifter. We're all grifters. So we sell each other out for a nickel." Jones tells Marlowe to bring
the money to the office—Puss Walgreen's office, which fronts as an insurance company, and
which we have already heard of through Brody. Once Jones has the money, he will take
Marlowe to Agnes, who will hand over the information.
Chapter 26
At 7:00 that evening, Marlowe makes his way to Puss Walgreen's office. As he approaches he
hears talking coming from the office. Canino is inside. Marlowe enters quietly through the
adjacent door and overhears the conversation. Canino wants to know why Jones's Plymouth
has been following the detective around. Mars knows about it, he says, and Mars wants an
explanation. Jones tells Canino he is trying to blackmail Marlowe for money for Agnes's drug
habit, because Jones has information about Carmen Sternwood's whereabouts on the night of
Brody's murder. Jones knows that Carmen had been at Geiger's and had also attempted to
shoot Brody because of a photograph of her he had in his possession. Jones tires to convince
Canino that the fact he is following Marlowe has nothing to do with Mars.
Canino asks Jones where Agnes is. Jones will not give up the information, so Canino points a
gun at him. Finally, Jones gives Canino an address, and it initially seems Canino is going to let it
go at that. However, before he leaves, Canino offers Jones a drink. The drink is poisoned with
cyanide, and Jones drops to the floor, dead. Marlowe waits until Canino leaves, at which time
he goes into the office and discovers Jones's dead body.
Marlowe reaches for the phone book and attempts to confirm Agnes's location, the one Jones
gave to Canino. It turns out there is no Agnes at that location; Jones had protected Agnes and
given the wrong address. Marlowe admires Jones for this. Soon after Marlowe hangs up, the
phone rings, and it is Agnes. Marlowe tells her that a man named Canino passed by the office,
and that Jones got scared and ran. Marlowe and Agnes set up a meeting place to exchange the
money for the information she holds about Mona Grant.
Chapter 27
Agnes and Marlowe meet in a parking lot, the place they have designated. She tells him where
Mona is hidden: east of Realito, where a road turns towards the foothills, near a cyanide plant,
off the highway, next door to a garage and paintshop run by a man named Art Huck. Agnes
discovered Mona's location one day when she and Joe Brody were driving. They saw Canino in
a car with Eddie Mars's wife, so they followed her.
Marlowe leaves Agnes and makes his way to the location she just described. Driving on the
highway on his way there, he runs into tacks on the street that give him two flat tires. From
the spot where the car has broken down he can see a light that might be the light of Art Huck's
garage. Marlowe walks up to the garage with the gun he took from the masked man who
assaulted Vivian.
Under the pretense that he needs his flat tires repaired, Marlowe knocks on the door of Art
Huck's garage. Canino's car is in the driveway. Art hesitates to let Marlowe in, and only does so
at Canino's request. Canino tells Art to help Marlowe with his tires. There is an exchange of
looks and glances between Canino and Art, after which Art reluctantly agrees to fix the tires.
Next, Canino offers Marlowe a drink—Marlowe notes that there is no cyanide in this glass.
However, before Marlowe knows it, Canino and Art have ganged up on him and are attacking
him. As he does not see it coming, he is beaten.
The new character in this section, Harry Jones, commits one of the only genuinely good acts
taken by any of the characters, aside from Marlowe. Much like the respect Lundgren pays to
Geiger's dead body, Jones's refusal to give away Agnes's true location, even under gunpoint, is
admirable. Marlowe is moved by Jones's action, saying that Jones may have died like a rat, but
that Jones is not a rat in his eyes. Jones, in short, is not one of those "rats behind the
wainscoting"—he has no veneer. He is merely a common criminal, who, nevertheless, is
capable of some good. As Marlowe has claimed earlier, however, perhaps this is not a world
for knightly deeds—for Harry Jones has ended up dead.
Agnes appears again, once again in collaboration with a man in another ploy for money. In this
regard, it is questionable whether Agnes's seeming plight as a victim is actually merited. She
does not have to continue to involve herself in a case via another ploy; however, when her
drug habit is revealed, we suddenly understand her motive and financial desperation. This
revelation may place Agnes further into the archetype of victim or it may illustrate that she has
free will and has chosen her track in life. Agnes tells Marlowe, "wish me luck… I got a raw
deal." Whether her plight is a result of her choices or not, it has social implications. Indeed, the
characters of Agnes—and Harry Jones—though minor, should not be ignored. Jones, unlike
Agnes, admits to his choices in life: he says that he is a "grifter." This admission points to the
fact that not all the characters in the book are two-faced; though many, if not all, are criminals
in one way or the other, this classification cannot be seen in simple black and white, as there
are many shades and gray areas.
For the first time in The Big Sleep, the hero appears to be defeated. Marlowe is beaten to a
pulp, caught off guard and unable to defend himself. It is quite possible that a knight cannot
fight back if he does not understand his role. Moreover, perhaps the fact that, as the story has
progressed, Marlowe has become disillusioned, hurting his ability to fight back. Perhaps he
needs to become the idealist knight once again, in order to win the war, even if he has lost a
small battle. Alternatively, perhaps he needs to shed a layer of idealism and grasp or accept
the cynicism of the world in which he lives. Perhaps he needs to be reinvigorated—in this case
by Silver-Wig, who, as we see later, may reinforce a faith in humanity. Or, Marlowe's defeat
may merely point to the fact that he is not invincible—that nobody is, and that, if not tainted
by crime, then one is sometimes defeated in the world Marlowe inhabits. In short, there are
numerous possible readings for this minor defeat, which do not work to the exclusion of
Chapter 28
Marlowe comes to after his beating and realizes that he has been tied up and handcuffed, and
that he is in the house beside the garage. He also realizes that a woman is in the room with
him. The woman is Mona Grant Eddie Mars's wife. Marlowe is sore from his beating, but this
does not stop him from his typically hard and witty banter. He and Mona talk, and as he
describes her it is clear he is attracted to her. Mona, whom Marlowe calls "Silver-Wig" because
of the platinum wig she is wearing.
Mona defends Eddie Mars because she is in love with him, even when Marlowe accuses Mars
of being a murderer—or worse, a murderer by proxy. Silver-Wig also assures Marlowe that her
husband did not kill Rusty Regan. Nevertheless, Silver-Wig sets Marlowe free of his ropes. She
cannot undo his handcuffs because Canino who has left Silver-Wig to watch over Marlowe, has
left with the keys. Marlowe asks her to come with him for her own safety, but she refuses.
Marlowe is about to leave, but not before he and Silver-Wig kiss.
Chapter 29
Marlowe runs out of the house into the rain and toward the highway, going over in his mind
the plan he perceives Canino and his henchman have to kill him. Marlowe runs to the highway
and sees that his car has been repaired so that it could be driven away after the thugs were
done with Marlowe. Marlowe grabs his gun from the car and heads back to the house. On the
way there he is almost spotted by Canino in his car.
When Marlowe arrives back in the house, he is too impatient to allow the scene to play out
and Silver-Wig to attempt her explanations. Instead, he throws gravel at the window, trying to
lure Canino from the house. When that does not work, Marlowe turns on the car ignition, as
Canino has left his keys inside. Marlowe turns the key but exits the car after doing so, knowing
that Canino will shoot at the car, thinking that Marlowe is still inside.
Canino does just that, and Marlowe feigns a scream of pain. Canino laughs and sends SilverWig out to see if she can see Marlowe. Silver-Wig lies for Marlowe and screams out that she
can see Marlowe's dead body behind the wheel. Fooled by Silver-Wig, Canino lets his guard
down, and Marlowe manages to shoot him.
Chapter 30
Marlowe is at the Missing Persons Bureau talking to Captain Gregory. We learn that Marlowe
has been chided by the homicide bureau, and by the police in general, for having taken
matters into his own hands. Marlowe tells Captain Gregory that he is done with the case, even
though Rusty Regan has not been found and even though Captain Gregory knows that to ask of
Marlowe such a request is all but futile. After leaving the Missing Persons Bureau, Marlowe
gets the feeling that the Captain knows something and is not telling him.
That night, Marlowe finds himself unable to sleep, reliving the experiences of the night before.
He thinks of Silver-Wig, who was eventually released by the police, and recalls recounting his
story to the police, and his admission that he had shot Canino.
Suddenly Marlowe's phone rings. It is Norris, the Sternwoods' butler, asking if Marlowe might
come to the house that morning at the request of General Sternwood. When Marlowe arrives
at the house, he finds Sternwood deathly ill in his bed. During the conversation, Sternwood
seemingly blames Marlowe for betrayal, claiming he had not directly asked Marlowe to find
After Marlowe tells the General he is done with the case, Sternwood reveals his true
intentions. He tells Marlowe that he will give him an extra $1,000 to find Regan. The General
gives his reasons for the request: he does not so much care that Regan abandoned his
daughter, but he simply had taken a genuine liking to Regan and wanted to make sure he was
alright. There is also the matter, of course, of the General's pride in his own judgment of
character that he wants to prove.
When Marlowe awakes in Chapter 28, after having been beaten by Canino and Art Huck, he
complains to Silver-Wig of the soreness in his jaw. Silver-Wig responds, "What did you expect,
Mr. Marlowe—orchids?" This remark is a double-entendre on Chandler's part, as well as a
piece of dramatic irony. In a sense, orchids are, symbolically, exactly what is to be expected of
such a situation, given Chandler's setup of the orchid symbol in the early chapters. Orchids are
full of beauty, just as Silver-Wig is, but they are also flowers that release a rotten smell and
thrive in a "cloying" heat. Sliver-Wig is not aware of the significance of her own words, but we
immediately recognize the literary device and perk up immediately, feeling a sudden sense of
danger as well as the sexual tension that is released by the image.
There is immediate sexual energy between Marlowe and Silver-Wig, perhaps because they are
similar in many regards. They are both "good" people caught in a dangerous world. Silver-Wig
cannot help her love for Eddie, but she recognizes wrong when she sees it and she releases
Marlowe. Meanwhile, Marlowe, who has been all edge and hardness, cannot help but reveal a
tenderness behind his descriptions of this girl in the platinum wig. For instance, Marlowe says
of Silver-Wig's voice, "It was a smooth slivery voice that matched her hair. It had a tiny tinkle in
it, like bells in a doll's house. I thought that was silly as soon as I thought of it." We are meant
to realize a hidden softness or sensitivity in Marlowe's tone, even when he reproaches himself
for it.
Marlowe is not the only character that reveals a soft spot in these chapters. General
Sternwood readily admits to a genuine affection for Rusty Regan. Perhaps because he is on his
deathbed, we readily believe that he speaks the truth: he does not care so much about the
abandonment of his daughter as he does about Regan himself, his safety and well being.
However, we should also take into consideration the General's words: "I must be a little too
vain about my judgment." The General does, then, display genuine affection in his words to
Marlowe, but by adding the above statement, the General reveals that he is a double-sided
and complex character whose intentions we must constantly question.
Furthermore, just as we have witnessed in the past, the tension between "coppers" and
Marlowe resurfaces in Chapter 30. Marlowe is ready to take things into his own hands as long
as he is working for his client (unless his client is crooked) and for the greater good. He does
not believe in cover-ups, and he is honest about what he has done. Marlowe admits to having
shot Canino, even if it endangers his position. He also refuses to take money for a job he does
not believe to be finished—he has not yet found Regan.
Chapter 31
Marlowe walks outside and sees Carmen Sternwood. He approaches her and returns her gun.
Flirtatious as ever, she asks him to teach her how to shoot. He asks for the gun back until they
get to the location where she says they can practice. They drive, following Carmen's
instructions. The place is full of empty oil pumps; everything is rusty, old, and desolate.
Marlowe gives Carmen the gun and sets up the cans they are going to use for target practice.
As he returns to Carmen, she points the gun at his chest and tells him to stand still. She shoots,
but no smoke comes out of the gun. Marlowe stops and grins at her—he had loaded the gun
with blanks. As he goes over to Carmen, she begins to shake and then faints. As he is driving
her home she wakes up and asks, "What happened?"
Chapter 32
Marlowe returns Carmen to her house. He meets with Vivian and tells her what has happened.
Marlowe pieces the entire puzzle together in front of her: the blackmail murder, Geiger, Brody,
his pictures, Eddie Mars, Canino, and Mona. Vivian claims she is bored with all of it. However,
it begins to become "interesting" when Marlowe moves into the Rusty Regan plot.
Marlowe tells Vivian how her sister, Carmen, tried to kill him. He then proceeds to say that
Carmen tried to kill him in the same exact way she killed Regan, as Regan had rejected her just
as Marlowe has—and Carmen did not like that. Marlowe then says that Vivian paid off Canino
to dispose of Regan's body, using the $15,000 that Regan always carried around in his pockets.
Marlowe tells Vivian that Carmen, clearly mentally ill, needs to be taken away to a place where
she can be cured. Vivian then confesses, affirming the story Marlowe has just set forth. She
tells Marlowe that Regan is lying dead in an oil sump. After Vivian found out her sister had
murdered Regan, she decided to get rid of the body because she did not truly love him, and
because the police would find out and Carmen would be in trouble. Most important, however,
Vivian wanted to keep the murder from her father, the General. It would kill her father to
know the truth, and she did not want him to have to think of such things in his dying days.
Marlowe again tells Vivian to take Carmen to get help. He says he will give Vivian three days to
go away, at which time he will come out with the whole story. The novel ends with Marlowe
reflecting on death—the "big sleep"—and thinking of Silver-wig.
In the final pages of The Big Sleep, we realize that, although Marlowe has solved the puzzle,
significant unease remains. Eddie Mars, who stands behind so many murders and crimes
during the course of the novel, does not get any just retribution. The secret of the Sternwood
family will be kept and Carmen will be cured, not punished. As for Vivian, she will be given the
opportunity to escape. Although General Sternwood will die without the painful knowledge of
Regan's death, he will also die without knowing the truth.
In light of this untidy conclusion, we may wonder how well Marlowe has done his job. More
broadly, we may wonder if a just, happy ending is an impossibility in the world Chandler has
created. In the end, the novel's tone and outlook are both positive and negative. We realize
that Vivian is not completely evil because she has covered up Regan's murder merely in an
attempt to keep a hurtful truth from her father. Just like Marlowe, she is trying to protect the
Sternwoods and their name; there seems to be a kernel of kindness behind her dark eyes after
all. This is not to say, however, that Vivian—and Carmen—have not committed heinous acts. It
is perhaps this reason, this turmoil that arises in the end, that leaves Marlowe thinking there is
no way out other than death, the "big sleep."
The last lines of The Big Sleep are about Silver-wig. It is not completely clear why Marlowe
thinks of her in the end, and what the significance of his thoughts may be. Marlowe may mean
something similar to his thoughts about death—that the world is disillusioning, and that he
only desires what he cannot attain. It may, however, be more positive in the sense that the
novel ends with Marlowe's thoughts returning to one of the novel's only seemingly noble