Chandler Research Paper
The Big Sleep
Movie vs. Novel (revision)
The Big Sleep written by Raymond Chandler and published in 1939 gives us a look into a hard-boiled detective story. The novel encompasses all the subjects of a great fictional work such as thrill, sex, drama, action, romance, and corruption all the while leading us on a journey narrated by the lead character Philip Marlowe. In 1946 seven years after the release of The Big Sleep, director Howard Hawks attempted to recreate the detective’s tale in a version made for the silver screen. Throughout this essay I will show the reader the fundamental differences between the novel and the film, the influences that were responsible for the differences, as well as the impact that these differences have on the quality of both works. I will also write about the effect that the addition or removal of substance had on both productions of the story. My process of analysis for this research paper consisted of reading the novel and watching the movie concurrently in order to recognize the differences between the two accurately. On first inspection of the novel the reader notices a few things rather quickly. First the story unravels at a tepid pace; secondly the writer has made the main character and “hero” of the novel as the voice of the story and the narrator. Chandler helps the reader develop a mental picture of Phillip Marlowe by giving him a voice and giving the reader a window into his thoughts. By doing this Chandler opens the character up to the reader and gives Marlowe individuality which gives readers the feeling that they are being told the story directly. By using the first person narration the reader sees Marlowe’s inner feelings throughout the book and as a result Marlowe is revealed as a witty and sarcastic identity that the reader gets to know almost personally. Marlowe’s personal thoughts are a highlight for the reader throughout the book but are absent in the film. His highly amusing thoughts like that of his perception of General Sternwood; “His long narrow body was wrapped – in that heat – in a traveling rug and a faded red bathrobe. His thin claw-like hands were folded loosely on the rug, purple-nailed. A few locks of dry white hair clung to his scalp, like wild flowers fighting for life on a bare rock” (Chandler 8) are immediately missing for the viewers of the film. Upon first glance of the film, the viewer notices that there is no first person narration, there is no window into the main characters’ thoughts, and there are no quips, no laughable descriptions of other characters or foreshadowing by the narrator to lead the viewer in the right direction. Rather than having this guiding voice, the film forces viewers to form their own opinions of characters, as well as follow the sequences of the plot, while in the novel the narrator serves this purpose. Because the viewer doesn’t see the inner thoughts of Phillip Marlowe as he does in the novel, his character is significantly different than the original Marlowe. Without the narrator giving his opinions on characters and situations it forces the viewers to pay much closer attention to the scenarios that may only be mentioned aloud once in the film, but are recurring thoughts of Marlowe’s throughout the novel. An example of this would be Phillip’s feelings on the character Carmen Sternwood. Throughout the novel it is a recurring thought of Phillip Marlowe’s that she is psychologically unstable.”Will you take her away? Somewhere far off from here where they can handle her type, where they will keep guns and knives and fancy drinks away from her? Hell, she might even get herself cured, you know. It’s been done” (Chandler 228). While this is mentioned in the film it is only touched on once and not by Marlowe; rather it is mentioned by Carmen’s father General Sternwood at the introduction of Carmen to viewer in the film. “Carmen is still the child who likes to pull the wings off flies.” (The Big Sleep,...
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