The Maltese Falcon | Study Guide

Dashiell Hammett

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Course Hero. "The Maltese Falcon Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 July 2017. Web. 14 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Maltese-Falcon/>.

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Course Hero. "The Maltese Falcon Study Guide." July 20, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Maltese-Falcon/.

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The Maltese Falcon | Chapter 16 : The Third Murder | Summary

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Summary

Spade returns to his office, and a new client is waiting to see him. He hires Spade to see if his cashier and doorman are defrauding him. Spade then tells Effie that Brigid went down to the boat that caught on fire. Spade goes down to check it out and misses a call from Luke telling him that Cairo has returned to the hotel. By the time Spade gets to the Belvedere, Cairo has checked out.

Spade returns to the office and tells Effie that Brigid had been to the ship, though he didn't see her. She ate with Captain Jacobi, then Gutman, Wilmer, and Cairo showed up. A fight broke out and a gunshot was heard. The captain told the crew everything was okay. They all left at midnight, but the captain never returned to the ship. Just then a seven-foot-tall man enters the office. His left arm has a claw on the end, and he is holding a package. He walks in, falls forward, and blood spurts out of his mouth. He drops the package, falls to the floor, and dies. Spade opens the package and sees "the foot-high figure of a bird, black as coal and shiny." Spade laughs and squeezes Effie in excitement.

Brigid calls and asks for Spade to come to the Alexandria because she's in danger. She's cut off before she can finish talking. Effie begs Spade to go to her. Spade tells Effie to call the police about the dead body and gives her full instructions about what to say to them. He leaves and takes the package with him.

Analysis

This chapter is actually the climax, or turning point, of the novel. The quest to find the black bird has led to this climactic point in the story. La Paloma, the ship from Hong Kong, has brought all of the main characters together. It's obvious that the ship is related to the statuette in some way. The falcon mysteriously arrives at Spade's door in the hands of a dying man. At last Spade knows who has the bird—he does.

The appearance of the man with the package is a prime example of detective fiction. A strange man, a claw in place of a hand, his bullet-ridden body hidden by his coat, and his body collapsing on the floor are all spellbinding. Hammett adds noteworthy details as well to compound the mystery. When the office door opens it is not just any man entering but a seven-foot-tall man. He falls down dead on the office floor, blood spurting from his mouth. And he drops a mysterious package at Spade's feet containing the Maltese falcon. These are all vivid images for the reader to visualize as Hammett brings the story nearer to its end.

Brigid's call tells Spade she is still alive and in San Francisco. Where she has been and what has happened to her is still a mystery and prepares the reader for the falling action, or the events that will lead to the resolution of the story. Effie's defense, though, of Brigid is one of the more problematic aspects of the book. In the previous chapter the police were unable to piece together a valid storyline about Thursby's murders. In a similar way Effie's defense of Brigid is heartfelt but ultimately off base.

This is not the first time Effie has come to Brigid's defense, declaring to Spade early in the novel "that girl is all right, and you know it." Brigid turns out to be far from all right. By the end of the novel she is revealed as a toxic and murderous femme fatale. In this chapter Effie tells Spade to forgo dealing with the falcon and help Brigid instead. Effie is certainly not wrong about Brigid being in danger, but by sending Spade to be Brigid's protector in her hour of need Effie plays into Brigid's seductive strategy. Brigid pretends to be vulnerable to gain control of men, who she begs to protect her. Effie's lack of perception adds to the general undervaluation of women by Hammett in the novel.

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