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The Big Sleep

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now. Far more a part of it than Rusty Regan was...

Marlowe thinks this at the very end of the novel, the passage that gives the novel its title. These words point to a sort of salvation that comes in death and that is possible in death alone, while at the same time incriminating those who are alive—such as Marlowe—just by the very fact that they are alive. It points to the fact that the phantom character of Rusty Regan has implicitly remained untarnished in image for the very reason that he is dead and lying in an oil sump. Not only do we not have a chance to judge Regan, but Regan himself does not care what kind of "dirt" surrounds and engulfs him. He does not have to care any more about the "dirt" that abounds in the city, in the characters, in the novel, because he is saved through death—or rather, finally at peace and resting in death. So too will the old General be at peace, dying before he has to learn the truth uncovered by Marlowe's investigation. We feel sympathy for the General precisely because he is dying, and, fearing death, we project that sympathy upon the General. However, at the same time, that same death is something Marlowe feels to be a release of sorts. If there is any optimism in The Big Sleep, it comes, ironically, in the form of death, a gentle death that is like sleep.