The Maltese Falcon | Study Guide

Dashiell Hammett

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The Maltese Falcon | Chapter 19 : The Russian's Hand | Summary

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Summary

Gutman announces "in exchange for the ten thousand dollars and Wilmer," Spade will give them the falcon. Before Wilmer can be handed over to the police, Spade needs the details of the murders of Thursby and Captain Jacobi. Gutman says they were both killed with Wilmer's guns so it is a "simple matter." But Spade wants to know more, so Gutman explains they killed Thursby because he was Brigid's ally and protector and he would not cooperate with them. They did not know "she had given the falcon to Captain Jacobi." Cairo was the one who figured out the falcon would be arriving on La Paloma because he had seen Brigid and Jacobi together in Hong Kong. They offered to pay Brigid for the falcon, but when they arrived at Brigid's apartment Jacobi escaped through a window with the bird. Wilmer followed him and shot him multiple times, but Jacobi still made it to Spade's office before dying.

Wilmer wakes up, and Spade tells him to "sit down and shut up and behave." Gutman tells Wilmer that he is sorry to lose him, but the falcon is worth more to him. Spade orders Brigid to make them all something to eat and demands she give him back the envelope filled with money she has been holding for him. One of the bills is missing, and he tells Brigid to go to the bathroom and remove her clothes to prove she is not hiding the $1,000 bill on her person. After she does Gutman reveals he has taken it.

Cairo whispers in Wilmer's ear, then suddenly the boy jumps up and punches Cairo in the mouth, causing Cairo to cry "as a woman might have cried." Cairo daubs the blood with a silk handkerchief that smells of perfume, and Spade jokes this is "the course of true love." Spade and Gutman argue about the amount of cash Spade should receive. Spade wants $20,000 instead of $10,000, but Gutman says no. They all spend the night in the living room waiting for Effie to come with the statuette the next morning.

Effie delivers the falcon on schedule. Gutman opens the package with moist eyes after waiting 17 years for this moment. He takes out a gold pocket knife and scrapes the edge of the statuette, but "black enamel came off ... exposing blackened metal beneath." The bird is a fake! Spade grabs Brigid roughly and growls, "All right. You've had your little joke." Brigid swears this is the bird she got from Kemidov, the Russian. Cairo starts to cry and screams, "What a fool we thought him, and what fools he made of us!" Gutman, undaunted, vows to "go to Constantinople" and visit the Russian, and Cairo agrees to go with him.

Spade looks at them in disbelief and says, "I must say you're a swell lot of thieves!" Gutman demands the envelope of money back from Spade, but Spade explains he held up his end of the bargain and delivered the bird. Gutman holds up a jeweled pistol and takes back all of the money except for a $1,000 bill Spade keeps to cover his "time and expenses." Gutman, Wilmer, and Cairo exit, leaving Brigid behind with the fake bird "as a little memento."

Analysis

Gutman finally explains the sequence of events and the motivations behind them. All of the details fall into place as well as the reasons why Thursby and Jacobi were killed. Gutman also reveals his extreme greed. He is more willing to sacrifice Wilmer as the fall-guy than to lose the Maltese falcon, which matters more to him than anyone or anything ever could. When the bird is discovered to be a fake, Gutman realizes he must keep trying to find the real statuette. He is not giving up on his obsession; he is relentless. The extent of Brigid's greed is also exposed. She lets Jacobi escape with the package so she can get it from Spade behind the others' backs. She doesn't want to share the money with Gutman and Cairo. Given the opportunity, she will either share it with Jacobi or more likely just keep it for herself.

In this chapter, as a climax, truth and lies become even more reversed here. At last the characters are revealing the truth and what they did to find the statuette. Up until now they have deceived and tricked each other. But they always believed that the bird in the package was the real Maltese falcon. When they finally examine the bird they learn it is a fake. So what they held as true is nothing more than another bigger and final lie. They gained nothing from finally being truthful.

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