The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
November 2, 2010, 7 pm
This classic 1939 noir mystery is the first of Raymond Chandler’s novels to feature the hard-boiled LA private eye Philip Marlow. Hired by the wealthy General Sternwood to handle the gambling debts of his eldest daughter, the detective is drawn into a dark underworld of gambling, pornography, blackmail, kidnapping, and murder. Time Magazine’s review from 1939 said, “Detective Marlowe is plunged into a mess of murderers, thugs, and psychopaths who make the characters of Dashiell Hammett and James Cain look like something out of Godey’s Lady’s Book.”
1. How does "The Big Sleep" relate to the time in which it was written? What does it say about the America of the 1930s?
2. Do you think the tone of the narrator is the same as the tone of the author? Why or why not?
3. To what extent is this novel a political critique? A social one? A moral one?
4. Consider the role women play in the novel. Do women have any power? If so, what kind of power do they have and what is significant about it? How does Chandler see women? How does Marlowe?
5. Are there any victims in this story? To what extent is Marlow a victim or a hero? Is he both, or perhaps neither?
6. What are the issues of homosexuality and male fraternity in "The Big Sleep"?