The Big Sleep- the Depiction of Marlowe as a Modern-Day Knight

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The Big Sleep- The depiction of Marlowe as a modern-day knight

The novel “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler was published in 1939 during the heart of the Great Depression. The novel is written in a very sinister, dark and kind of a gangster tone and carries much of the cynicism of 1930s America. The Big Sleep is a story of intrigue, corruption, delinquency and obliquity with a rather complex plot which can be very confusing. The main character in “the Big Sleep” is the private detective Philip Marlow who is very masculine man with values and a good moral. His strong moral is often evidenced throughout the novel. Marlowe is the only one in this complex world who cannot be corrupted because the other characters are all described as sleazy, vampy and decadent. Considering all these aspects; Marlowe is different to all the other characters, somehow superior. This superiority is somehow underlined through the depiction of Marlowe in the novel. Marlowe embodies the characteristics of a knight in many different ways, namely through his morality, faithfulness, and symbolism throughout the novel. There is a lot of imagery of knights in this novel and there is always a parallel between the imagery and Marlowe. Furthermore, the most evidential proof is Marlowe´s moral, exemplary and chivalrous behavior that is displayed throughout the whole novel which is giving point to the depiction of Marlowe as a knight. In particular, Philip Marlowe can be depicted as a modern-day knight as he is frequently compared to a knight through the imagery in the novel, his chivalrous behavior and his loyalty and commitment. This thesis is going to be analyzed and reinforced within this essay through several examples and interpretations. The novel is full of symbols, metaphors and different themes and one of the most important and obvious ones is surely the symbol of the knights and hence the associated attributes. The importance of this symbol can not only seen by the fact that already at the beginning of the novel, at page three, a detailed description of a picture with a knight is mentioned. This detailed description does not only underline the importance of this symbol but to a greater degree this imagery serves to point out the parallels between the ancient knight and the modern chivalry of the main character Philip Marlowe since it is obvious that these imagery of knights is used to prompt the reader in perceiving Marlowe as a modern-day knight. This imagery is therefore used to indirectly award Marlowe as a knight and that is also the way how he depicts himself. As abovementioned, the beginning of the book serves as great example of that imagery when Marlowe is leaving to Sternwood´s house. In this scene, Marlowe describes himself as “wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be” (3). This very first description of Marlowe correlates exactly with the personification of the picture of a modern-day knight. What was once the “shining armor” is nowadays the suit in combination with a tie. Marlowe is well dressed and especially he is sober as benefit for a noble man with honor equal as an ancient knight once was. After entering the house there is the next imagery in terms of a stained glass window that is recognized by Marlowe. The picture shows “A knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very convenient hair” (3). Not only the fact that Marlowe is especially fascinated by this picture is distinctive but also the fact that he instantly has the feeling to help the knight in his rescue operation “if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him (3). Later on in the novel he somehow does rescuing the lady in person of Carmen...
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