The Maltese Falcon | Study Guide

Dashiell Hammett

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The Maltese Falcon | Chapter 11 : The Fat Man | Summary



After Spade sends Brigid to Effie's house, Casper Gutman calls and requests that Spade come to his hotel. Iva walks into the office, crying "forgive me." She confesses she sent the police to Spade's apartment the night before to hurt him. She warns Spade that Miles's brother Phil found out about their affair and that Iva wanted a divorce. Phil concluded that Spade killed his brother in order to be with Iva. This is the story Phil told the police. Then Iva called the police and told them to go see Spade to get more information about the murder. Spade tells Iva he knows she was not at home the night Miles was killed. He advises her to go see his lawyer, Sid Wise. Iva insists she was at home, but Spade says he knows she is lying.

Spade arrives at the Alexandria Hotel, and the boy who has been following him answers the door of Suite 12C. Gutman is extremely fat, with "a great soft egg of a belly." Gutman offers Spade whiskey and a cigar, and they talk. Spade won't say who he represents: Brigid, Cairo, or himself. Gutman asks if he knows "how much money can be made out of that black bird," realizing Spade doesn't know the bird's real value. Gutman asks what Cairo is willing to pay for the bird, and Spade says $10,000. Gutman asks if they "know what the bird is." Spade doesn't think they do. Gutman proclaims he is "the only one in the whole wide sweet world who does!" Spade wants Gutman to tell him more about the bird, and Gutman wants Spade to tell him where the bird is. Spade gets angry and smashes his glass. Then he tells Gutman to keep his boy away from him. Gutman says Spade has a violent temper. Spade demands more information by 5:30, then leaves and slams the door.


Spade's encounter with Iva at the beginning of the chapter is a study in how greed, deception, and betrayal intertwine. Iva is so greedy in her desire for Spade, and so hurt he has pushed her aside, she has helped implicate him in Miles's murder. It was Iva who sent the police to his apartment the night before. Sexuality only leads to trouble in The Maltese Falcon. Brigid has already caused issues for Spade. Spade's rejection of Iva causes her to become hysterical and vengeful to the point of getting him arrested for murder.

Gutman is the arch villain in the novel and a unique character in terms of his physical appearance and his pivotal role in the story opposite Spade. He is a man without principles or morals, with an insatiable hunger to find the falcon, which may be why Hammett presents him as a "fat man." Initially he seems quite hospitable when Spade comes to call. The meeting between Spade and Gutman is an excellent example of bargaining. The two men appear to have different styles of negotiation. During their negotiation, each man has something the other wants, and they both need to figure out what the other man knows or doesn't know and if he is willing to share it or not.

Gutman is extremely affable, plying Spade with liquor and cigars as if they are old friends: "We'll get along sir, that we will. ... You're the man for me, sir, cut along my own lines." He talks frequently about who he does and does not trust, implying that Spade is trustworthy: "I do like a man that tells you right out he's looking out for himself. ... I don't trust a man that says he's not." In contrast Spade remains detached and doesn't go along with Gutman's attempts to be ingratiating. He remains all business. Indeed Gutman, for all his feigned friendliness, is as tough a negotiator as Spade. If Spade won't tell him where the falcon is, Gutman won't tell him why the bird is valuable or how much it may be worth. And Gutman can also be detached if he so chooses. Infuriated by Gutman's refusal to share information, Spade smashes a glass and Gutman doesn't even blink. He merely notes Spade has "a most violent temper."

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