The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 27 | Summary



As soon as Marlowe and Agnes meet, she demands the money. After Marlowe pays, she tells him how she spotted Mars's wife and where she is. Agnes drives away. Marlowe drives to "orange country," where Agnes saw Mars's wife, but just after he enters Realito, he skids in the rain. The two tires on the right side of the car blow out. When Marlowe gets out to inspect the damage, he sees the shoulder of the road is covered with tacks, some of which have punctured his tires. Seeing a light in the distance he thinks it could be the place he's looking for, the garage run by Art Huck, which Agnes told him about. He takes one of two guns from a hidden compartment in his car and walks to the garage, a sign confirming it is the right garage. He also recognizes Canino's car parked near the porch. Marlowe pounds on the door and tells them he has flat tires. They tell him to walk the mile to Realito. He pounds again, and Canino's voice tells Huck to let him in. Huck grills him about what he's doing, and Marlowe is careful to avoid looking too closely at some of the men in the shop.

Finally Art Huck starts working on his car, still grilling Marlowe as he does. Marlowe suggests Huck might have spread the tacks to generate business. Eventually the man in brown, Canino, tells him what to do. When Huck goes to get the jacks for the car, Canino offers Marlowe a drink. Remembering how Jones was poisoned, Marlowe sniffs it first and takes it when he detects no cyanide. When Huck returns, Canino tells him to fix the flats, but he also takes a roll of nickels out of his pocket. Huck slams the tire tube down on Marlowe's head and shoulders, then holds his arms down. Canino punches Marlowe in the face with the roll of nickels. Marlowe passes out as he sees "nothing ... just darkness and emptiness and a rushing wind and a falling as of great trees."


This chapter is one of several points in the novel where rain plays a major role as it intensifies the challenges Marlowe faces. Without the rain he wouldn't have had flat tires, could have considered more carefully his approach to the garage, and could have read the cues in his environment more clearly and carefully. The rain, then, is not only atmospheric, it is also part of the plot at this point.

This chapter also reveals the limits of Marlowe's ability to win the day by reading his situation better than those around him. This ability fails him twice. First with the road obscured by the rain, Marlowe runs right over the tacks. He suspects and suggests they were spread to drum up business for the garage but never does get an answer to this. Instead he is told about a bank robbery earlier in the day. Second when he tries to bluff and navigate his way through the encounter with Canino and Huck, he fails completely. In fact he is lucky to get knocked out and to live through the encounter.

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