The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

When Marlowe returns to Geiger's bookstore, he tries to convince the blonde woman working there he has something to sell to Geiger. Marlowe tells her he's "in the business too." When he presses to see Geiger, she gets upset. Marlowe notices stock being moved and agrees to come back the next day.

When Marlowe leaves, he sees a truck outside and hires a cab to follow it. They lose it for a while, and then spot it again, stopped at an apartment building. Marlowe checks the mailboxes and finds Joe Brody's name on one—Brody being the man General Sternwood paid $5,000 to stay away from Carmen. Marlowe goes into the building's garage and pretends to be the manager as he confronts the man in overalls loading boxes onto the elevator. He tells the truck driver not to overload the elevator, asks what's in the boxes, and where they're going. They are full of books and going to Brody's apartment. Marlowe leaves and takes the cab to his office—"a room and a half on the seventh floor at the back," and keeps the driver's business card. A client is there waiting for him.

Analysis

Marlowe engages in extensive deception throughout this chapter. Like the criminals, he's good at it. Chandler refuses his characters the moral black and white common in other detective novels, one of the major distinctions of the hard-boiled detective novels. The reader has to work hard to determine the differences between Marlowe and men like Geiger, Brody, and Mars. When Marlowe needs something, he is skilled at attaining it, through a variety of different means.

Marlowe's office is in keeping with the character of the hard-boiled detective. Unlike his rich clients' homes, Marlowe's working place is down at the heels—no frills. In his "room and a half on the seventh floor at the back" he conducts his business with few amenities. His only concession to practicality seems to be the half room, "an office split in two to make reception rooms." He leaves the one room "unlocked, in case [he] had a client, and the client cared to sit down and wait." Marlowe's unlocked door implies not necessarily a trusting nature but an office that contains no information and nothing worth stealing—and a need for clients. It also suggests he knows that people will get in if they care to, and he has the means to stop them without locks if he wishes.

This chapter also shows various threads of the plot both coming together and unraveling. In Chapter 1 Joe Brody is a detail in the backstory provided to put the current blackmail case in context. However, this chapter shows Joe Brody is more than a detail, as the deeper complexities of corruption are revealed. With crime, as with a person's character, once something has gone wrong it never goes away. It comes back to haunt and rot, poisoning the environment.

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