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The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 21 | Summary



Marlowe goes to his office. Norris calls to inform Marlowe the general, who is not feeling well, considers the case closed. They discuss the case, Marlowe's next steps—destroying the pictures and returning the material the general gave him—and his fee. After the call Marlowe sits, drinks, and thinks over the case. He then calls Eddie Mars and tells him he will be coming to talk to him.

When Marlowe gets to Mars's Cypress Club, he looks the place over—an old mansion formerly a hotel. As he and Mars talk, Marlowe shares the idea the general was concerned Regan might be behind the blackmail. Mars dismisses the notion, saying Geiger blackmailed everyone. Mars also wishes the general would hire Marlowe to watch over his daughters because they are always getting into trouble. Vivian Regan, he tells Marlowe is out there right now playing roulette as she does often. Before they part, Marlowe confirms Mars has a connection with Captain Gregory. Mars replies they are "just friends" when Marlowe says, "So you own a piece of him too." And when Marlowe asks whether Mars has anyone following him, Mars denies it.


The twisted nature of this case reveals itself once again in this chapter. Marlowe does as Gregory suggests and stays away from the Sternwoods only to have the family contact him, via Norris. As is often the case, one thing doesn't just lead to another in this story—rather one thing leads to its opposite. In this case Norris's call reminds Marlowe how firmly the general had indicated the Missing Persons Bureau had Rusty Regan's disappearance in hand. Marlowe realizes the general was too firm and was essentially pointing him one way by seeming to point him in another. This ability to read the opposite of what people say is essential to Marlowe's success in this case, once again showing his skill at deciphering communication.

Eddie Mars further reveals his ambiguous nature. He may be a gangster, but he speaks more directly than people in law enforcement like Captain Gregory or Marlowe's client General Sternwood. He reveals himself as insightful, calling Marlowe a "soldier," much as Norris will later. Because characters are revealed in part through what other characters say about them, readers should consider the judgment as confirmed and these characters' perceptions as accurate.

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