The Big Sleep

Characterization of Marlowe in The Big Sleep

In The Big Sleep, private investigator Philip Marlowe solves the puzzle created by a multi-layered, interrelated series of heinous crimes for his client, at a fee of twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses. Marlowe strives first and foremost to protects his client’s interests and fulfill his duty even in the face of imminent danger. He encounters a plethora of dangerous members of the criminal underworld, yet always remains calm and capable – preserving not only his own safety, but also that of others. He is ultimately never bested, intellectually or physically. What do his skill, privacy, and sense of duty say about his character, modern moral sensibilities, and the ideal of the private investigator?

Marlowe is hired by the ill and affluent General Sternwood – a former military man who made his money in the oil business – to investigate a blackmail scheme being put on him by one Mr. Geiger. Geiger is a book dealer whose dealings turn out to be more sinister than they first appeared; he has a pornographic lending library that Marlowe describes this way: “Photos and letterpresses alike were of indescribable filth… elaborate smut” (26). Rather than indulging in such books as some might, Marlowe recognizes them as perverse and...

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