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The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 6 | Summary



As the rain picks up, Marlowe's car starts to leak. He buys some whiskey and drinks to stay warm while he stakes out Geiger's store. He observes "in spite of the rain, or perhaps even because of it, there was business done at Geiger's. Very nice cars stopped in front and very nice-looking people went in and out with wrapped parcels."

Geiger shows up about four. Marlowe recognizes the "fat face and the Charlie Chan moustache." Geiger gets out of his car and enters the store, before a young man drives the car to park it. A little more than an hour later the young man retrieves the car and brings it back for Geiger. When Geiger drives away, Marlowe follows him home where Marlowe waits and watches the house. Another car arrives, and a woman enters the house. Marlowe checks the car's registration: it is Carmen Sternwood's car.

Suddenly Marlowe sees a flash, hears a scream, and runs toward the house. Just outside the front door he hears three gunshots from inside, a thump, and someone running away. Marlowe hears someone go down the stairs at the back of the house and a car drive away. To get inside Marlowe tries to break down the door, but it is too solid. Instead he breaks a window, unlocks the door, and enters. Two people are in the room, and "one of them was dead."


This chapter advances the plot from blackmail to murder. It also transforms Marlowe's role as a detective/observer to an active participant in the case. Carmen Sternwood's presence complicates the situation: Marlowe is not investigating a case that is over but one still unfolding.

In the chapter, the motif of the weather becomes significant as Chandler emphasizes the rain's continuing. It underscores the dark unpleasantness of the pornographic dealings and the implications of worse behavior at large. Chandler also uses the rain to characterize Marlowe as a man for all weather, someone who maintains his moral integrity to his job and his client in rain or shine. Alcohol consumption aside—he is after all a man of the world, rushing in after a gunshot to see a dead body—he's true to his word. Finally, the rain helps develop the theme of corruption: other people are pleased to use the poor weather and their own duplicitous natures as an excuse for their own illicit sexuality and as a cover to purchase illegal pornography.

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