The Big Sleep Novel Essay

The Simplicity of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep

  • Length: 1543 words (4.4 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓

The Simplicity of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep


Raymond Chandler would like us to believe that The Big Sleep is just another example of hard-boiled detective fiction. He would like readers to see Philip Marlowe, Vivian Regan, Carmen Sternwood, Eddie Mars, and the rest of the characters as either "good guys" or "bad guys" with no deeper meaning or symbolism to them. I found the book simple and easy to understand; the problem was that it was too easy, too simple. Then came one part that totally stood out from the rest of the book &emdash; the chessboard. Marlowe toyed with it whenever he got the chance, and it probably helped him think of a next move in a particular case. I found it odd that Chandler made such a brief mention of chess, but I did not realize why until I finished the book and had time to think about what I had read. In a very interesting sense, the entire novel resembles the game of chess. Each character is a piece, and the name of the game is survival. Though the ultimate goal in chess is to take possession of the king, the underlying strategy is to eliminate as many pieces as one possibly can. This serves as insurance in the overall goal. Being that the characters/pieces determine the direction of the goal, let us look at them to begin. I have chosen to examine two characters in-depth and then put them on the board with the rest of the people in the novel.


Philip Marlowe does not correspond to the knight of the chessboard. Chandler assumes that the reader will fall into the easy trap of assigning Marlowe to the role of the knight. After all, he is the main man in the novel, the one who needs to solve the case. His self-description in the opening chapter lures the reader into believing he is a typical white knight hero. "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 is a fitting description of a knight only because knights must possess similar qualities in order to be heroes.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Simplicity of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep." 10 Mar 2018

LengthColor Rating 
Raymond Chandler's Writing Techniques in The Big Sleep Essay - Raymond Chandler's Writing Techniques in The Big Sleep       I sat at my desk, wondering what I could possibly write about The Big Sleep. I mean, there are so many possibilities. This guy, Raymond Chandler's writing style is so different from anything I have ever read before, that there are many things that I could talk about. I heard that Chandler once said, "I live for syntax!" It does not surprise me that he would say something along those lines. I mean, this writer is all over the page with different writing techniques....   [tags: Chandler Big Sleep Essays]
:: 2 Works Cited
1037 words
(3 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Raymond Chandler's Writing Style in The Big Sleep Essay - Raymond Chandler's Writing Style in The Big Sleep      Unique writing style is definitely an essential element in any piece of writing, and Raymond Chandler uses his style efficiently in The Big Sleep. Chandler's style is one that seems to come easily to him and it also seems very natural to the reader, perhaps because there is not a lot of high, eloquent language. Rich in description and dialogue, the characters seem more realistic to the reader as a result of such details and natural speech....   [tags: Chandler Big Sleep Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
862 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
The Big Sleep: Writing Style of Raymond Chandler Essay - The Big Sleep: Writing Style How can I humble myself. I can write about Raymond Chandler's style. I am amazed that someone can write with a style that appears to be almost effortless. No, it seems completely effortless. Breezing through this book is very easy. There are no seams. Chandler's "no buts about it," "hard-boiled" style, characters and story are completely cohesive. All elements seem perfectly placed. The narrator and interesting use of figurative language contribute to the unity in the text....   [tags: Chandler Big Sleep Essays]1071 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
The Use of Series in The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler Essay - The Use of Series in The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler In The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler writes items in a series in almost every paragraph that does not include dialogue, occasions, in the text where Marlowe watches the other character do something like open and close a book or light a cigarette and flick the ash into a tray. When Chandler stops the dialogue to creates a space for Marlowe to record elements in the environment, he constructs sentences that indicate how Marlowe assimilates the information: characters perform three or more acts successively and Marlowe notices every movement, recording it at once....   [tags: sleep]1120 words
(3.2 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler’s First Novel Essays - ... “ Tsk. Tsk.” I said, not moving at all. “Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains. You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail. Put it down and don’t be silly, Joe” (Chandler 79). This kind of calm, collected nature under intense situations is the mental cowboy equivalent to a victory in a shootout in the Old West. Marlowe’s collected presence under high pressure situations creates a certain “suaveness” about him that translates into many other aspects of his persona....   [tags: old west, cowboy]724 words
(2.1 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
The Characters of Chandler's The Big Sleep Essay - The Characters of Chandler's The Big Sleep The differences between the characters in Hawks' adaptation of Chandler's The Big Sleep and the novel are obvious to someone who has noticed the details on both. Of course there are positive and negative aspects to such choices which Hawks makes in his film and those decisions which Hawks made from novel to movie should be examined and questioned whether they helped or hindered the production of The Big Sleep. One of the major differences, and I would argue a drawback, in the film version is the representation of the characters and the predictable ending....   [tags: sleep]1234 words
(3.5 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Raymond Chandler: Reality or Fantasy? Essay - Detective stories are closely linked with mystery and investigation. One must use clues and intuition to put pieces of a puzzle together for their case. Similarly, solving a case is like knowing a person. A dubious, shady, and secretive person is hard to get to know. In order to find out who they really are, one must closely examine their life. A person that exemplifies this, is RaymondChandler. Chandler was one of the leading writers of hard-boiled detective fiction in his time period. He was an outsider that rose to become very influential to his genre....   [tags: detective fiction writer]
:: 8 Works Cited
1494 words
(4.3 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
The High Window and The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler Essay example - The High Window and The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler Raymond Chandler, along with Dashiell Hammett, invented what is now known as modern detective literature. Chandler excelled in the art, creating "wise-cracking" cynical "private *censored*s," such as Philip Marlowe. Marlowe and Sam Spade are what shall forever be the standard Private eye with razor sharp wit, keen intellect, and the blatant disregard for authority. Philip Marlowe is the smooth talking yet sentimental private eye. Marlowe's sentimental side is what turned him into a real person, and not a "colorless narrator" as Sam Spade was often criticized as being by numerous critics....   [tags: Papers]1955 words
(5.6 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Use of Metaphor in The Big Sleep Essay - Use of Metaphor in The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler wrote The Big Sleep as a piece of hard boiled detective fiction. This style was a reaction to the high style of detective stories such as those involving Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple. Writers often set hard boiled detective novels in a gritty world where everyone has a past. In The Big Sleep, Chandler keeps this edgy, lower class tone right down to the objects he utilizes for comparisons in his metaphors. Chandler is highly precise in his word choice and diction....   [tags: sleep]648 words
(1.9 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Similes in The Big Sleep Essay - Similes in The Big Sleep      In response to Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, I have just one question. Why all the similes. There isn't a single page in the novel that doesn't display this annoying literary device. Everything is "like this" or "like that." It never ends. Similar to decoding a secret message that isn't difficult to understand, but nevertheless tiring due to the overwhelming amount of messages, the novel is frustrating to read. The following analysis acknowledges Chandler's creativity in developing his main character, Philip Marlowe, with his usage of simile....   [tags: sleep]
:: 2 Works Cited
903 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays[preview]

Related Searches

Raymond Chandler         Simplicity         Sleep         Hard-boiled Detective         Detective Fiction         Chess         Opening Chapter         Vivian        

The main idea here is goodness, and Marlowe's description exudes this goodness. However, as we progress throughout the novel, his "goodness" mutates into something with more of an edge on it. By the end of chapter eight, Marlowe goes "to bed full of whiskey and frustration" (42) and, the next day (chapter nine), wakes up "with a motorman's glove in my mouth" (43). It is safe to say Marlowe's sobriety is questionable, especially when he tells Bernie Ohls - and us - that, "I've got a hangover" (43). Is this the action of a knight? I do not think so.


Similarly, his attitude towards everyone else in the novel detracts from his knighthood. For example, look at his treatment of Vivian Regan, who I will talk about a little later. They are talking for the first time and she tells him how cold-blooded a beast he is. "'Or shall I call you Phil?' 'Sure.' 'You can call me Vivian.' 'Thanks, Mrs. Regan.' 'Oh, go to hell Marlowe'" (61). More of the same follows with other characters; in each instance, Marlowe does not exhibit any gentleman-like qualities that a private eye should exhibit. So, if Marlowe is not the knight on the chessboard, what is he? I believe that he is more of a rook or a bishop piece and not a knight. When we think about the knight on a chessboard, it has a good amount of flexibility but limited movement. However, a rook or a bishop can move as far as it wants to move, even if the directions are not many. Movement is important to Marlowe because he thrives on getting his task done. This requires a great deal of movement on his part. This movement includes our next subject, Vivian Regan.


A funny thing happened when I was writing up the previous conversation between Marlowe and Vivian. Instead of typing "Mrs. Regan", I typed "Mrs. Marlowe" instead. I do not attribute that to a simple lapse in thinking, but more to the fact that Vivian is similar in manner to Marlowe; they could easily be mistaken for a married couple. Vivian possesses the same sharp tongue, the same penchant for drinking, and other Marlowe-esque qualities. For example, there is the part where she is gambling in Eddie Mars' casino and makes a bet that the house cannot cover. "'What kind of cheap outfit is this, I'd like to know. Get busy and spin that wheel, highpockets. I want one more play and I'm playing table stakes. You take it away fast enough I've noticed, but when it comes to dishing it out you start to whine'" (138). That sounds like the language Philip Marlowe might use if he ran into a similar situation. Even after he foils a would-be robber in the parking lot, she still shows little signs of thanks. "'Nice work, Marlowe. Are you my bodyguard now?'" (143). Vivian complements Marlowe perfectly, but is she a rook/bishop on the chessboard in the novel? Yes, but provided that Marlowe is not the same piece as she is. In other words, if Marlowe is the rook, then Vivian is the bishop, and vice-versa. I do not see Marlowe and Vivian as cohesive as Chandler might want us to believe; nonetheless, they do possess similar qualities.


After talking about two of the more prominent characters, it is time to devise a chessboard strategy that makes some kind of sense. I mentioned earlier that the point in chess is to capture the king, but another goal includes getting other pieces out of the way first. If I were to assign sides, I would put people like Eddie Mars, Joe Brody, and Carmen Sternwood on a different side than Marlowe, Vivian, and General Sternwood. Why? The first group - while giving Marlowe some kind of help - is more concerned with their own safety, and individuals are not afraid to knock off anyone who messes with them. How come Carmen is included in this group? Many people would say that she is neither here nor there, but when she comes to Brody's apartment and confronts Marlowe at the very end, she shows her true colors. In addition, there is the fact that she murdered Rusty Regan because he would not jump in the sack with her. This is where the chessboard strategy begins to unfold. Chandler's style not only pertains to his simile/metaphor use and his abbreviated sentences, but also to his construction of character movement in the novel. In chess, what one piece does to another or where it moves to directly affects the movement of other pieces on the board. For example, moving my rook three spaces may not mean capturing a piece, but it does give the opponent something to consider in terms of future moves. He does not want to make a move now that would jeopardize him later. Similarly, what happens in Joe Brody's apartment affects a good amount of the characters in the novel, from Carmen to Eddie to Marlowe to Vivian, and so on. In addition, that part affects what goes on in Eddie's casino and Geiger's house. While there may not be direct influence, there is definitely an indirect sort of influence.


What does this say about Chandler as an author? It says that he likes to give his readers something to look for in his novels, and that the something will not always be apparent at first. Digging up the chessboard motif would be no easy task for most readers because of its brevity in the novel. The average reader would not read this book for analysis; he or she would read the novel for pleasure. It is only because we &emdash; as English majors &emdash; are trained to look beneath the surface that I was able to put this together. This also says something about the world that Chandler lived in. His was a world of thinking about the next move and being cautious about what one did, which is evident in the novel. It was hard to trust anybody because everyone had selfish motives on their minds. That factor also corresponds to the chessboard in that a person might move a piece for individual reasons while not even considering the rest of his or her pieces. That might lead to consequences later. Chandler cannot warn us about keeping track of all of the moves in the story because they are unfolding as we move with Marlowe (who obviously cannot warn us, either). It is up to the reader to keep track of everything.


The Big Sleep is not a novel about chess. It is about how people and events interact and relate to one another, similar to the game of chess. As I mentioned before, the characters and their individual actions ultimately had an effect on the overall strategy and goal, which for Marlowe was to find Rusty Regan. He eventually discovered the late Mr. Regan, but it was only after a series of moves on the chessboard of life.


The Big Sleep: Movie vs. Novel Essay

1594 Words7 Pages

The Big Sleep: Movie vs. Novel

Film and literature are two media forms that are so closely related, that we often forget there is a distinction between them. We often just view the movie as an extension of the book because most movies are based on novels or short stories. Because we are accustomed to this sequence of production, first the novel, then the motion picture, we often find ourselves making value judgments about a movie, based upon our feelings on the novel. It is this overlapping of the creative processes that prevents us from seeing movies as distinct and separate art forms from the novels they are based on.

I enjoyed The Big Sleep by Howard Hawks, but can still recognize and appreciate the…show more content…

The tone in the book was cleverly created by Chandler's fast-paced lines; the flick was equally clever with the new dialogue for added scenes. Bogart might not meet the expectations of your mental image of Marlowe, but no one should be expected to recreate someone else's imagination in a piece of reality. Expecting an artist to do so is ignorant. The Bacall/Bogart connection, and the way the novel was altered to fit them, gave the movie a sense of individuality, and a signature of its own merit. The movie was well made, as the book was well written: both are sufficient to stand and to be appreciated alone.

When making a distinction between movie and novel, it is not acceptable, in my opinion to talk about the differences between the two versions in terms of "better" or "worse." You may like how the artist creates a scene in the movie or how another artist plays with the same scene in the novel, but these are subjective preferences; neither speak to the quality of the work. You cannot critically compare different media, because you do not have a common set of terms with which to comparatively discuss the works.

In his book Novels into Film, George Bluestone supports my opinion:

? The film becomes a different thing in the same sense that a historical painting becomes a different thing from the historical event which it illustrates. It is as

Show More

Categories: 1

0 Replies to “The Big Sleep Novel Essay”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *