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The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 22 | Summary



Marlowe leaves through the customers' exit so he can get a look at Mars's club in action. A tired-sounding "Mexican orchestra" is playing, with no one listening, as he passes through the old-fashioned ballroom. Marlowe sees Vivian Regan playing roulette, and the bartender tells him she has been winning. A couple of men leave the crowd around the table, talking about her amazing run of luck. The dealer tells Vivian her bet is so large the table can't cover it, so they have to wait for Eddie Mars to give permission. When Mars comes out, Vivian gets upset but then places her entire winnings— $16,000—on a single bet. Mars covers the bet, and she wins. Mars leaves. Vivian gathers her winnings.

When Marlowe goes outside into the damp, foggy night, he hears someone cough and sees a masked man. Marlowe waits behind a tree to see what will happen.


Chandler develops the theme of deception in this chapter. While they might have genuine musical talent, one of the functions of the orchestra is deception. They pretend to drink heavily and therefore model the sort of behavior Mars wants to see in his club. As the orchestra stops playing, the musicians pick up their glasses: "Tequila, their manner said. It was probably mineral water. The pretense was as wasted as the music." In addition the man wearing a mask further develops the theme in a different way: he is hiding from Vivian and wearing a mask to conceal his face. Marlowe takes his time to read the situation. He does not launch himself at the man immediately as a police officer might but waits for events to develop.

Of course the scene takes place in an isolated area late at night in a damp wet fog. Sinister events happen in the dark, punctuated by appropriate weather. In this case fog further hides what is happening, heightening the tension of the scene.

Marlowe doesn't linger on it, but Vivian's choice to wager $16,000 on a single bet underscores the divide between the economic levels of the characters. Marlowe makes $25 a day—when he works. Vivian is casually betting more than 600 days' worth of his labor. That's an immense sum, and it seems as though her only emotional involvement is irritation over her whim being blocked, even briefly.

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