The Big Sleep | Study Guide

Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

Marlowe wakes up hung over. He's drinking coffee and reading the newspapers when the district attorney's investigator Ohls calls, sounding "like a man who had slept well and didn't owe too much money." Ohls, who gave Marlowe the lead to the Sternwoods, asks if he's met them and tells him a car belonging to the family was found in the ocean, with a dead body in it.

Marlowe meets up with Ohls, who tells him the body isn't the missing Rusty Regan. Ohls drives them to the pier, where police officers explain the car went through the rail and speculate whether the death was murder or suicide, having ruled out an accident. The medical examiner notices the young man had a nasty bruise while he was still alive.

Marlowe identifies the body as the Sternwoods' chauffeur but denies the man has anything to do with his case or even that he knows the man's name (Owen Taylor). Ohls explains Taylor had a criminal record for taking the under-age Carmen Sternwood across state lines—a situation Vivian Regan straightened out—and for an attempted armed robbery. Marlowe asks Ohls to leave General Sternwood out of the investigation if possible because he is old and ailing. After they part, Marlowe has lunch and reads the afternoon papers, none of which mention Geiger's murder.

Analysis

Early and late in this chapter Marlowe reads the newspapers to monitor what's going on in the city and with case. Newspapers at that time were the main source of news, and he's hoping to pick up leads. As he reads, he notices clues—or in this case the lack of clues. Because there is no story about the murder, Marlowe reasons someone is protecting the Sternwoods. Indeed Marlowe's instinct also is to protect the general as he asks Ohls to keep the general out of the investigation.

The case itself continues to gather momentum and involve more people when the Sternwoods' chauffeur is found dead. There are now more mysteries than any detective could want, and Carmen is somehow wrapped up in all of them. Chandler also continues his efficient storytelling: Owen Taylor's backstory also involves and characterizes Carmen. Her sexual misbehavior has caused trouble for herself, her family, and the men she's been interested in for many years now.

Finally this is the first "bright, clear and sunny" day. Such weather doesn't appear often on pages of "noir novels," despite the California setting of The Big Sleep. Although Marlowe isn't finding the clues he wants, the case may be breaking more favorably than he thinks.

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