How does The Big Sleep exemplify the time in which it was written?
The plot revolves around blackmail which is taking place because of the social and moral temperature of the 1930s. The first blackmail revolves around pornography which was far more shaming to be involved with in the 1930s than it would be today. Blackmail was a popular way for criminals to obtain money from "marks" in the 1930s because there was far less transparency in the media and amongst the rich and famous. Another example of the book being of its time is the scandal around homosexuality and the way in which gay men would go to any lengths to hide their sexuality. In the 1930s there was no general level of acceptance and to be discovered a homosexual was incredibly shaming.
What is the significance of the fact that we never actually meet Rusty Regan in the novel?
Because he is not present in the novel at all, Regan is never in danger of dirtying his character for the reader. Although we are aware he has a criminal past, we are also made aware that he is a decent man and is a good friend to General Sternwood. Because he is never involved in the action he is never called upon to prove himself bad or criminal and is therefore the only character upon whom no moral judgement is made. Ironically his absence also makes him the most dominant presence in the novel.
What literary devices does Marlowe use to create a dark undertone to the novel?
Chamdler was classically educated and therefore employs any devices used in Greek tragedy. One of these is the use of lush descriptions and imagery particularly related to weather. Most of the murders occur on rain drenched evenings and after a little while the reader begins to recognize the inclement weather foreshadows a murder. He also uses an abundance of colloquialisms which make the reader feel involved in the action of the novel.
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