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Written by Micola Magdalena
Marlowe is the main character in the novel, a private detective hired by a wealthy family to investigate who is behind the blackmailing of one of the members of the family. Marlowe is described as being calculating, cold at times and able to resist the advantages and attempts of flirting coming from both Vivian and Carmen. He is sometimes considered inoffensive by the other characters but what makes him dangerous is his intelligence. Marlowe is a modern knight, saving those in need and refusing to take advantage of vulnerable women. His honor is also what drives him to search for the truth in connection with Rusty even though he was not paid to do it. Because of his noble character, Marlowe seems to be at times in the wrong environment, surrounded by criminals and corruption.
Arthur Gwynn Geiger
Arthur is a pornographer who blackmailed the General in the past as well. He tries to blackmail the General again by taking nude pictures of Carmen while drugged but he during the process of photographing Carmen. Arthur is the owner of an illegal business, renting pornographic materials under the cover of an antique book shop. Arthur is killed towards the beginning of the novel but his death is important because it sets in motion other important events.
The General is the father of both Vivian and Carmen, two unpredictable girls. Marlowe is hired by the General to investigate the person who was blackmailing his youngest daughter, Carmen. The General earned his fortune by investing in the oil business but he was involved in shady business himself and admitted to being wild, he can’t bring himself to admit that his children are evil.
Carmen is the General’s youngest child, prone to deviant behavior and thus putting herself to be in the position of being blackmailed. Carmen is flirtatious but she lacks her sister’s control and she sometimes comes off as childlike. Despite her exterior, Carmen is more dangerous than those around her believe her to be and her sister, Vivian, tries to keep their father from finding out about her sister’s character. Carmen is the person who killed Regan because he rejected her and she also planned to kill Marlowe for the same reason.
Vivian is Carmen’s older sister and the General’s oldest daughter. In comparison with Carmen, Vivian is more calculated and cold, thus preventing her from making the same mistakes as her younger sister did. Vivian is Regan’s wife and despite knowing that Carmen killed him, she still helped her hide the truth from their father. Just like Carmen, Vivian has problems of her own, drinking excessively, gambling and getting involved with dangerous criminals.
Terrance Regan is Vivian’s husband who never really appears in the novel. Regan was killed before the beginning of the novel and Marlowe becomes interested in his case. While he never appears, he is an important character because his death is the reason why Marlowe was hired. The General and Regan had a special relationship, Regan being among the only people who would sit with him in the greenhouse and talk with him.
Owen is a young man who is in love with Carmen Sternwood. Owen used to work as a driver for the Sternwood family before being jailed after he tried to run away with Carmen. Owen is the person who killed Geiger and he later emerges dead as well. Whether he was killed or if he committed suicide remains unclear but what is certain is that he is one of the two characters who commit crimes out of love.
Eddie is the villain in the novel, being involved in some way or another in every crime that is committed in the novel. While he is a villain, he is never the one who kills and chooses instead to hire other men to kill for him. Eddie is also the character who helps Vivian hide her husband’s body and plan a way to throw suspicion off her.
Carol is Geiger’s young homosexual lover. Carol is the one who kills Brody when he suspects him of being the one who killed Geiger. Despite his flaws, his love for Geiger is obvious and his affection for him is seen in the way he takes care of Geiger’s body after he discovers it.
Agnes is a girl working for Geiger in his pornography business. Just like many other criminals, Agnes is not naturally a criminal but rather she was forced by the circumstances to act in a certain way. Agnes has a drug problem and in order to maintain her habit, she gets involved in all kind of shady businesses.
Joseph was a man who worked for Geiger and who after Geiger’s death tried to take over his business. Brody is the one who blackmails Vivian with the pornographic pictures he has of Carmen. In the end, he is killed by Lundgren who also believed that Brody was the one who killed Geiger.
Taggart Wilde is the district attorney in the novel.
Harry Jones is another man involved in illegal business in the novel though he is unskilled and lacks the finesse the other characters exhibit. His actions prove that he is not a bad person and rather just a man lured by the possibility of having a comfortable life.
The relationship between Marlowe and Captain Cronjanger is presented as being tense. While the reason for this is not revealed, it is hinted that the captain feels jealous of Marlowe’s achievements and has a grudge against private detectives in general.
Captain Gregory is a man working at the missing person’s bureau. When Marlowe goes to him to find more information about Rusty, Captain Gregory appears to be irritated by him and even criticizes him for getting involved.
Mona is Eddie’s loyal wife. From the beginning, it is rumored that Mona ran away with Rusty but Marlowe is reluctant to believe that to be the truth. Towards the end of the novel, he discovers that Mona agreed to hide and to let the others believe that she ran away with Rusty in order to protect her husband. Mona is at times too innocent, refusing to believe that her husband is capable of doing cruel things.
Norris is the butler working for the Sternwood family.
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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…...