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The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 20 | Summary



Marlowe goes to the Missing Persons Bureau, where he talks over the Sternwood case with Captain Gregory. Marlowe asks him what he's doing for General Sternwood. At first Gregory stonewalls, then checks Marlowe's credentials, and finally admits he has looked for Regan for the general. He denies knowing where the general's son-in-law is but shares his file with Marlowe. He shows Marlowe a picture of Regan, who left "on the 16th of September ... the chauffeur's day off and nobody saw Regan take his car out." The car was found in a garage four days later at the place where Eddie Mars's wife lived—separate from Eddie but on friendly terms. Marlowe and Captain Gregory discuss possible scenarios, especially why Regan, who always carried $15,000 in cash with him, would leave Vivian.

Eddie Mars won't supply pictures of his missing wife—"he wants her let alone." Marlowe predicts they'll never find either Regan or Eddie Mars's wife, who disappeared at the same time and who is likely with Regan. He senses, "the Pacific Ocean is too close."


Chandler uses a variety of techniques to characterize people in this novel. In this chapter he uses gestures to characterize Gregory quickly and smoothly. By having him place Marlowe's card "so that its edges exactly paralleled the edges of the desk," readers easily infer this man is precise.

Chandler follows this gesture with another. Gregory is smoking a pipe and blows smoke from the corner of his mouth. The idiom blowing smoke means "deliberately misleading or confusing someone," and Gregory's smoke wafts around him. Therefore when Gregory "blew smoke and began to talk again," observant readers may question his truthfulness in denying knowledge of Regan's whereabouts and assume he has a good idea of precisely where he is—and that he's telling Marlowe this for a purpose. That he is not looking actively for either missing person and is in contact with Eddie Mars, who doesn't want his wife found, is questionable, and Marlowe has hunches.

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