The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 15 | Summary



Whoever is at the door keeps buzzing—and irritating Brody, whose face turns "sharp and foxy and mean." He gets a gun out of a drawer and gives it to Agnes to hold on Marlowe. When the buzzing stops, someone starts knocking. With his hand in his pocket on his own gun, Brody opens the door to Carmen Sternwood. She too has a gun, which she shoves in his face. In a moment of panic he takes his hand off his gun, but Agnes turns hers on Carmen. Carmen demands the pictures of her and says she saw him shoot Geiger. When Marlowe grabs Agnes's gun hand, Agnes bites his hand and then tries to bite his leg. Marlowe whacks her on the head with his gun. She grabs his legs, and he falls to the floor. Brody knocks Carmen down, sending her gun across the room. Brody then reaches for the gun. Marlowe hits Agnes on the head again and shows Brody his gun. Brody stops, but Carmen tries to retrieve her gun. Marlowe picks it up and tells her to stand up. Marlowe then puts a gun against Brody's stomach and takes Brody's gun, leaving Marlowe with all the guns.

After winning the scuffle he demands the pictures from Brody, who gives them to Marlowe. Carmen asks for them, but Marlowe keeps them and says he'll take care of them. She flirts with Marlowe, kisses him, and then leaves. He goes back in to Brody's apartment.


This chapter is almost all action, with little subtlety. It sheds light on some of the characters and raises the stakes in the case still further. Carmen shows she's capable of violence and willing to shoot someone who angers her, foreshadowing events in the novel's final chapters. Carmen's actions further demonstrate her unstable nature. She knocks uncontrollably at the door, is unable to shoot her mark, and then attacks like a wounded animal by biting at those trying to subdue her.

Marlowe shows once again that he's no angel by striking Agnes in the head. In doing so, though, he saves Carmen and shows his loyalty to his client. Again, characters are judged by their actions. Agnes is a strong woman, and knows how to wield a gun, unlike Carmen who is weirdly corrupt but weak. Marlowe knows how to handle both of them while remaining true to himself and his job.

Finally, unlike Brody, Marlowe retains his cool and wins the fight, putting him in a position to attain what he needs for his client.

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