The Maltese Falcon Quotes


“He looked rather pleasantly like a blonde Satan.”

Narrative description of Sam Spade

This quote offers a strikingly off-kilter description of Sam Spade. The quote is filled with foreshadow: Satan is the great deceiver and Spade will be forced to use deception as a weapon of detection. Yet he is also described as pleasant-looking which offers an expectation that he may not exactly have evil intentions for his deceptive qualities.

"I'm not holding out. I gave it to you straight. I'm doing a job for him, but he's got some friends that look wrong to me and I'm a little leery of him."

Luke, the House Detective

The significance of this quote is simple: in a novel overflowing with deceit and deception, Luke represents a beautifully trustworthiness oasis of straightforwardness. Not only is he genuinely trying to help Spade out, the information he provides is dependable.

“Most things in San Francisco can be bought, or taken."

Sam Spade

Excepting the fact that this rule hardly is limited only to the city by the bay, the thematic undercurrent of this observation by Spade is that loyalty and truth are commodities available to the highest bidder as well as more tangible objects.

“His hands were soft and well cared for. Though they were not large their flaccid bluntness made them seem clumsy.”

Narrative description of Joel Cairo

One of the underlying themes of the novel is the role of masculinity in defining manhood. This quote offers a description of Joel Cairo which seems to indicate a lack of masculinity associated with the softness of the man’s small hands and the attention to care. Later, however, this uncritical assumption will be put to the test when Cairo reveals an unexpected depth of masculinity in the fight he puts up against Sam Spade which attaches the thematic current of masculinity to that appearances being deceiving.

“He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling.”

Sam Spade

This quote is in reference to a man named Flitcraft who after almost being hit by a falling beam one day left his family, wife and life behind. Five years later, Spade found him living almost exactly the same life with a different wife and family. The story has no bearing on the plot and serves only to underline the novel’s themes about lies and deception—in this case, Flitcraft lies as much to himself about his ability to change as he lies to his two families—as well as thematic concerns about trying to change one’s fate.

"Belong? Well, sir, you might say it belonged to the King of Spain, but I don't see how you can honestly grant anybody else clear title to it—except by right of possession."

Casper Gutman

Or, put in more easily understood terms, ownership of the Falcon is essentially a case of finder’s keepers. A view which is consistent with the novel’s themes of deception and fate being intertwined and impossible to extricate from each other.

“Oh, I’m so tired, so tired of it all, of myself, of lying and thinking up lies, and not knowing what is a lie and what is the truth.”


Brigid is a great big honking mess of lies. As far the novel’s thematic obsession with deception goes, Brigid is the book’s poster girl. So this acknowledgement of her own self-awareness of the depth of her deceptive ways is, ironically, the most honest statement she ever makes.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.