The Big Sleep Literary Elements

The Big Sleep Literary Elements


Crime novel

Setting and Context

The action takes place in the 1930s in Los Angeles.

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator of the story is the main character, Marlowe. The events are thus presented from a first person subjective point of view.

Tone and Mood

Tragic, comic, ironic

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Marlowe and the antagonist is Mars.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between Marlowe and Mars, as Marlowe investigated the disappearance of more than one person connected directly to Mars.


The story reaches its climax when Marlowe learns the truth about Rusty’s death.


In the first chapter, the private detective describes a stained-glass panel with a naked woman being saved by a knight. The panel foreshadows how Marlowe will save Carmen a few chapters later and how she will be as well in a state of undress.


On numerous occasions, Marlowe denies that he is interested in finding Rusty Reagan and claims that he is not the subject of his investigation. But this is an understatement, as every action Marlowe takes is driven by his desire to find what happened with the man.


One of the things the writer alludes to through his writing is the fact that the police department is incompetent and crooked. In the novel, no character seems to trust the police to solve the crime or to have faith that they will do the right thing. Instead, they rely on a private detective to do the job the police department was supposed to do. What is more, the fact that the police department took credit for a crime solved by Marlowe proves that they are more interested in getting all the glory and not in helping those in need.




Marlowe’s actions appear to be at times paradoxical because he fights for what is good, yet he doesn’t hesitate to hide certain information from the police when he considered them incapable of dealing with the piece of knowledge.



Metonymy and Synecdoche

In the novel, when the figure of the knight is mentioned, it refers almost every time to Marlowe. Because of this, it is safe to assume that the figure of the knight is used in a metonymical sense to make reference to Marlowe.


In chapter 11, ‘’ this rotten crime-ridden country.’’

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