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Running Head: DANGEROUS FEMALE SEXUALITYDANGEROUS FEMALE SEXUALITY IN ‘THE BIG SLEEP’NameInstitutionCouseSubmission Date
DANGEROUS FEMALE SEXUALITY2‘The Big Sleep’ is a 1939 novel of the Hard-boiled genre by Raymond Chandler. ‘TheBig Sleep’ is rife with the theme of women using their sexuality to get things to go their way. Chandler employs the use of imagery, vivid description, and other literary techniques in the book to present the aspect of female sexuality as being dangerous. The main characters that Chandler uses to highlight the aspect of female sexuality being dangerous are the Sternwood sisters; Carmen and her big sister, Vivian1. Chandler implies throughout the book that female characters in the book use their sexuality as a power object, often in dangerous ways. The purpose of this essay is to explore the extent to which ‘The Big Sleep’ presents the aspect of female sexuality as being dangerous.By portraying female sexuality as being dangerous, Raymond Chandler explores the traditional narrative motif. The motif of a precarious female is prevalent in many narratives and mythologies, especially ancient myths and is also present in the Bible. Some of the Greeklegends that contain the motif of dangerous sexuality include the story of Medusa, the tale of Medea, and Homer’s Odyssey2. The biblical accounts of Adam and Eve, Samson and Delilah,Ahab and Jezebel also contain the motif of a dangerous female3. However, the female characters in the book fail in most of the instances where they attempt to use their sexuality as a weapon. Scholars often refer to female characters using their sexuality in dangerous ways as “Femme Fatales,” a French phrase that means a deadly woman. The features of a femme fatale include irresistible beauty, seduction, and a woman using her sexuality in dangerous situations for selfish purposes4. Vivian Sternwood1Raymond Chandler,The Annotated Big Sleep(Vintage Crime/Black Lizard 2018).2RonaldC. Nesbitt,The Femme Fatale and Male Anxiety in 20th Century American Literature, Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction, and Film Noir(BiblioBazaar 2011).3Nessebit (n2).4Ibid.
DANGEROUS FEMALE SEXUALITY3Vivian Sternwood possesses various characteristics of a conventional dangerous female. One of her most outstanding features that Vivian possesses is her beauty. Vivian is not only aware of her beauty but is also capable and willing to use it to grab men’s attention. In the first instance that the author introduces Vivian in the novel, Philip Marlowe, the protagonist of the story, notices her outstanding beauty. Raymond Chandler employs the use of imagery and vivid description to emphasise Vivian’s grace, strength, and elegance5. The author states that Vivian was worth, staring at and that her beauty would most likely lead to trouble. Marlowe describes Vivian’s dressing and appearance in great detail, emphasising her beauty and elegance. The various parts of Vivian’s body that Philip Marlowe describes include her legs, knees, calves and ankles6.