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The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler

Chapters 16–18

Chapters 13–15

Chapters 19–21

Summary

Chapter 16

After getting rid of Carmen, Marlowe is back in Brody's apartment, holding Carmen's small gun in one hand. Marlowe asks where Brody works. Brody responds that he works in insurance for Puss Walgreen. Marlowe wants to know more, especially how Brody got Carmen's picture. Furthermore, Marlowe wants to make sure that Brody is not going to tell anyone that Carmen was there that night with her gun. Brody asks to be paid for both his information and his secrecy. Marlowe says it is possible for him to pay a small sum, nothing too big.

Brody claims that a "guy" slipped the picture to him, but then he adds to the story. Brody claims to have been watching Geiger's house because he wanted to get into the "book racket." He saw Vivian Sternwood's Buick park nearby and then he left. This would appear to make sense, as Owen Taylor had been driving Vivian's car the night he murdered Geiger. Brody further adds that he heard the gunshots and followed Taylor as he ran away. At some point Taylor stopped, and Brody went up to him pretending to be a cop. Brody hit Taylor on the head and stole the plateholder from the camera, not knowing what it held.

Then, after developing the negative, Brody came to realization that Geiger was the one who had been shot—especially when he did not turn up at his workplace the next day. Brody then decided to move in on Geiger's business. Marlowe appears satisfied by Brody's explanation, at least in the sense that he believes Brody did not murder anyone. However, Marlowe continues to question Brody, asking him whether he hid the body. Brody claims to know nothing about this. The conversation continues until the doorbell rings once again.

Brody opens the door and is shot dead. Marlowe runs after the gunman, realizing that it is the boy from Geiger's store, Carol Lundgren, who has killed Brody in the belief that Brody killed Geiger, Lundgren's lover.

Chapter 17

Marlowe takes Lundgren to Geiger's house. They get into a fistfight when Marlowe asks Lundgren to open Geiger's house with the key he is sure Lundgren possesses. Marlowe wins the fight, ties Lundgren up, and beats him unconscious. The resilient Lundgren, however, has only one response to everything Marlowe says: "Go —— yourself."

Marlowe opens the house and drags Lundgren inside with him. He looks around and discovers that the smell of incense is coming from the room across from Geiger's, the one with the masculine, bare air. As it turns out, Geiger's body is lying on the bed of that room, with the two strips of Chinese silk from the wall spread upon him like a cross. There are candles and incense burning around him.

Marlowe calls Ohls and asks whether a revolver was found on Owen Taylor's body that morning, because it is at this point that Marlowe is sure Taylor killed Geiger. Marlowe tells Ohls that the gun should contain three empty shells, and that if Ohls wants to know how Marlowe knows this information, he should come right over to 7244 Laverne Terrace, Geiger's address.

Chapter 18

Ohls appears at the house. Marlowe tells him what has occurred, showing him Geiger's body in the bedroom. They then make their way then to the home of Taggart Wilde, the District Attorney. Marlowe explains to the D.A. and Captain Cronjager what went on, leaving out the pieces of the story he has planned to leave out the whole time—the pieces about Carmen Sternwood. From the conversation, we get the sense that there is a clear rivalry between the private detective and the "coppers."

During the conversation it is implied that Marlowe is in some kind of trouble—or at least could be—for withholding information from the law. Marlowe hands Lundgren over to police custody. The D.A. tells Marlowe that any cop would be upset about the cover-up, and that Marlowe will have to make statements about what he has just said. The D.A. agrees to attempt to keep General Sternwood out of the killings, and even agrees to report them as two separate killings. The D.A. appears to refrain from accusing Marlowe because he seems to admire that Marlowe is doing detective work for a pauper's fee. The D.A. also is connected to Sternwood because his father was a close friend of the General and has protected him, using his capabilities of his position, many a time in the past. The D.A. feels sorry for the General because of his "wild" daughters. Finally, the issue of Rusty Regan comes up again. The D.A. says that he believes the General probably thinks that Regan is involved, somehow, in all of what has transpired.

Analysis

As before, Chandler again shows us that there are different calibers of criminals in the Los Angeles underworld. We have just come from reading about Eddie Mars, who will turn out to be the greatest criminal in The Big Sleep, and are then led straight into examples of common criminals such as Joe Brody and Agnes Lozelle. Both of them appear to be involved in crime simply out of a necessity for money—they seem to be caught in a realm where they do not belong. We may even feel sorry for them to some extent. Agnes is constantly blaming others—Brody, in this case—for her plight, and she often acts as somewhat of a victim. Alternatively, we may view both Agnes and Brody as victims of the broader American society Chandler is exploring.

This section also further explores Marlowe's nobility and the idea of homosexuality. Carol Lundgren, Geiger's lover, has apparently killed for love, and has affectionately wrapped Geiger's body and surrounded it with incense. Such an act seems endearing, almost beautiful. Marlowe had been hard on Lundgren at the beginning of the chapter that includes the finding of the body. Now, however, when Marlowe actually sees the body, it seems for a moment that he feels empathy for the boy. After having called Lundgren all kinds of names and after beating him to a pulp, after he finds the body Marlowe asks, "Want to sit up, son?" Though Marlowe may be delivering this line with a hint of sarcasm, it seems so out of place that we cannot help but wonder whether Marlowe feels true sympathy for the boy's love. This is not to say that Marlowe has not spoken of—and will not continue to speak of—homosexuality in derogatory terms, using words like "queen," for example. Indeed, Marlowe does continue to be a homophobic character, perhaps merely a product of the society of his time. Nonetheless, it is important that other relationships in the novel—such as that between General Sternwood and Rusty Regan, for instance—do at times appear to be associated with homosexual overtones.

Though Marlowe appears homophobic, he does seem to have a great deal of nobility, tying him to once again to the figure of the knight. The D.A. seems to admire Marlowe for doing detective work for such a pittance. Indeed, Marlowe gives a speech, later in the novel, as to why he does what he does for such little money; he claims that it is simply because he protects his clients with "what little guts and intelligence the Lord gave [him]." Again, the honorable Marlowe shines through, even if his honor is juxtaposed against what the law asks of him.

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