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The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 17 | Summary



Carol drives Marlowe to Geiger's house. Marlowe tries to get information, but Carol remains stubborn and nasty, continuing to use obscenities. When Marlowe insults Carol and Geiger for their sexual orientation, Carol punches Marlowe, even though Marlowe is pointing a gun at him. Marlowe offers him the gun, to even things up and then punches Carol when he reaches for it. Carol keeps fighting, and Marlowe has to beat him unconscious. Marlowe drags him into the house and leaves him "lying on the floor with his wrists shackled behind him and his cheek pressed into the rug and an animal brightness in his visible eye."

Inside there's a flickering light in Geiger's bedroom, now unlocked. When Marlowe steps inside the room he sees lit candles and Geiger's dead body arranged on the bed. Marlowe doesn't touch the body and calls Bernie Ohls, first at work, then at home. He asks whether Owen Taylor had a gun on him with three bullets missing. When Ohls confirms he did, Marlowe tells him to come, giving him the address.


Although this chapter advances the plot—Marlowe solves Geiger's murder and calls in the authorities to clean it up—that function takes up little of this chapter. In fact it seems as though Geiger's murder is less interesting to Marlowe than other happenings—just another day, another murder that he is better at solving than the police are.

Most of the chapter focuses on the extended encounter between Marlowe and Carol Lundgren, which reveals interesting themes about gender roles and relations. As Agnes and Carmen lose control and let emotion rule them, to very different ends, in Chapter 15, Carol Lundgren does so here. Chandler is essentially equating a homosexual man with a woman, an equation that would have been quite common at the time the novel was written. When Marlowe offers Lundgren the gun, then beats him anyway, he demonstrates his masculine superiority, quicker wit, and of course deception—all for the cause. However, after seeing the staging of Geiger's body, Marlowe realizes Carol Lundgren had feelings for Geiger and treats him somewhat gentler, asking, "Want to sit up, son?" rather than dragging him upright or making homophobic remarks.

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