The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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Course Hero. "The Big Sleep Study Guide." January 8, 2018. Accessed September 21, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Big-Sleep/.

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Marlowe visits Geiger's store. From behind a desk a blond woman, radiating sex appeal approaches him. When Marlowe asks if they have a specific book, she seems confused by the question. He asks for a different book. They don't have that one either. When Marlowe asks if they sell books, she gets flustered.

Marlowe sits down to smoke a cigarette and wait for Geiger to return, which may not be for some time. He watches a customer come in, give the woman a parcel, and show her something. She pushes a button and lets the customer into another part of the store. The man comes out carrying a different parcel. Suspicious, Marlowe follows him when he leaves. The man eventually notices and gets nervous, picking up speed and eventually ducking into a bungalow complex called "The La Baba." Marlowe waits, and the man eventually reappears, without his parcel. After watching him leave, Marlowe finds the parcel hidden in a cypress tree. It is a book.

Analysis

This chapter introduces Marlowe's method of detection: he goes directly to the site of the blackmail and involves himself immediately. Rather than planning an elaborate scheme, he improvises, uses his wits, and puts other people on the spot. He doesn't engage in subtlety or misdirection; he goes straight to what he believes is the heart of the matter.

Her sexualized approach is similar to the ways Vivian and Carmen approach Marlowe. These women all see Marlowe as a tool for whom their sexuality will give them access. He remains as immune to her as he did previously to them. His remark that her approach is obvious enough to "stampede a business men's lunch" is one of many metaphors that mark Chandler's unusual literary style.

Like the Sternwood's home, Geiger's store is divided into distinct sections, public and private. The general and Vivian live in private worlds and invite Marlowe into them only to introduce him to mysteries he must solve. Carmen and the blonde woman exist in the public space but invite Marlowe into private, unknown worlds. Geiger's world is one associated with books, and the customers use a secret signal to access its private side, implying, alongside Chandler's unusual metaphors, that language has a greater significance than either the reader or Marlowe yet understands.

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