Traits of Marlow in the Big Sleep

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  • Topic: Raymond Chandler, Philip Marlowe, Hardboiled
  • Pages : 5 (1195 words )
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  • Published : August 6, 2007
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Marlowe - The Big Sleep

What are my traits?

Marlowe runs a single man operation out of the Cahuenga building in Los Angeles. He is tall and big enough to take care of himself. And his interests are Liquor, women, reading, chess and working alone. He is educated enough that he can speak English ‘if he's required to'. Marlowe used to work for the district attorney, but was fired for insubordination.

Philip Marlowe, a private detective. Tall, dark, and rugged, with a poker face and a quick wit, he is attractive to women but wary of them and of all entanglements. Though cynical and hard-boiled, and a heavy drinker capable of violence, Marlowe is idealistic, even puritanical. Contemptuous of money, he is an honest loner in a corrupt world. Hired to deal with a blackmail threat, Marlowe is embroiled in a more deadly game by Sternwood's two spoiled daughters, whose advances he spurns.

Marlowe is an honest detective in a corrupt world. Marlowe is full of integrity - he is willing to seek the truth and endure the hardships of his job for $25 a day. Despite this, he seems inherently driven towards the discovery of truth. Also significant is the fact that Marlowe works towards this truth independently—he does not work directly for the law, but for himself. He is not a "cop," but rather a private detective.

He is often described by critics as a ‘modern day knight'. He has the qualities of a strong, fine person. Integrity, honour, commitment, not materialistic,

Due to corruption in the world, Marlowe has become a cynical and pessimistic observer. He stubbornly clings to decency in a society permeated by evil - Morally elevated by his integrity. ‘Why did you have to go on?'/'Too many people told me to stop'.

Marlowe is a complex character. If you look at him externally, he is a cold, tough, wisecrack -

"I don't mind if you don't like my manners. I don't like 'em myself. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them long winter evenings."

Vivian Sternwood Rutledge: I don't like your manners.
Philip Marlowe: And I'm not crazy about yours. I didn't ask to see you. I don't mind if you don't like my manners, I don't like them myself. They are pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings. I don't mind your ritzing me drinking your lunch out of a bottle. But don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me.

He is a hard drinker and smoker… The typical badass, the lone ranger. But while he is not afraid to bear physical harm, he prefers to settle matters in a more practical and moral manner

However, if you observe Marlowe in more detail, you come to realize that he is actually quite contemplative and philosophical. For instance, he enjoys pastimes such as poetry, reading and chess.

Despite the tough front Marlowe puts up, on the inside he is good and almost sensitive. We see this clearly in the fact that he tells Carmen his name is Doghouse Reilly, even though his real name is Philip Marlowe. Doghouse Reilly seems like a street name, ringing with the same tough-sounding bell that names like Eddie Mars or Canino do, for instance. Regardless, Marlowe's true name is Marlowe—a name that not only sounds knightly, but that is also the name of Josef Conrad's protagonist in the classic novel Heart of Darkness. This connection forms an important parallel between the two novels: both characters are idealists in search of truth in a primarily dark world.

Through his good sense of morals, Marlowe is not mislead by the femme fatales which are characteristic of this genre of Crime Fiction. Raymond Chandler commented on the moral uprightness of Marlowe - "I think he might seduce a duchess, and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin."

Marlowe experiences the very lowest and darkest aspects of human nature everyday. Through his work, death, murder and deception are but a few common elements which Marlowe deals with on a daily basis. When juxtaposed with the various dark deeds of humans performed everyday,...
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