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The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 19 | Summary



When Marlowe gets home, one of Eddie Mars's men is there to inform him Mars wants to see him. Marlowe says he's too tired. A little while later, while Marlowe is cleaning Carmen's gun and drinking, Mars calls. He wants to know if Marlowe mentioned him to the police and pressures Marlowe a bit. Marlowe pushes back verbally but assures Mars he didn't tell mention him. However, when Mars asks who did the killing, Marlowe tells him "Somebody you never heard of gunned him. Let it go at that." Content that Marlowe didn't mention him, Mars suggests Marlowe is looking for Rusty Regan and says he can help Marlowe if he is.

Marlowe then phones the Sternwoods to say he has the pictures. The next morning he reads about the case in three newspapers. All three accounts are inaccurate, giving a simplified timeline and implying the police easily solved Geiger's and Brody's murders. Owen Taylor's death is called a suicide and not connected with the other two.


Although Marlowe is exhausted, he still pushes back against Mars's calls. Because this call directly follows the chapter ending with a declaration of his ability to act on principles, Marlowe is acting on one of them: standing up to pressure, whether it comes from official sources like the police, who pressured him in the last chapter, or from unofficial sources like gangsters. The pressure from Mars—the appearance of his hired thug at Marlowe's apartment and the subsequent phone call—come at night, once again emphasizing the darkness of the criminal world.

Marlowe reads multiple newspapers for multiple purposes. He continually gathers and cross checks information from one source against other sources, as he did when he sought confirmation about the legitimacy of Geiger's bookstore. He does this here too as he confirms the unreliability of newspaper reports, but he also reads the news almost like a doctor checking the pulse of his community. He's checking the news to see how corrupt the newspapers are in this instance. He finds the answer: they are either complicit in a police cover up of what actually happened or incompetent at discovering the actual facts.

In addition the chapter serves as a lull after one major thread of the novel is tied, but it also foreshadows deeper involvement with more sinister criminals. Eddie Mars is a player far above amateurs and petty criminals. While Marlowe reads the newspapers and eats a quiet breakfast, the sinister encounters of the previous evening are just the beginning of a bigger story.

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