The Maltese Falcon

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Maltese Falcon Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the office, Effie strokes Spade’s head as he tells her that Brigid may have been around La Paloma when it caught fire. Effie pulls away, disgusted that he would get lunch with Polhaus and meet Bryan rather than search for a woman in danger. Effie calls him contemptible, accusing him of spitefully ignoring a client in danger just because she withheld information and did something without his consent or knowledge. Spade snaps at her for talking too much and leaves the office so he can think in quiet.
Effie plays the role of Spade’s conscience, getting angry at him for not immediately trying to find Brigid. Effie claims that Spade is not helping Brigid out of sexist spite because he doesn’t like when women withhold info or do things independently. Spade responds with more sexist language by telling her she talks too much, which is a common sexist insult that men often use. That Spade leaves the office might suggest merely that he wants some peace and quiet or that Effie’s accusation has actually hurt him or made him think.
Themes
Authority, Justice, and a Code of Ethics Theme Icon
Masculinity, Femininity, and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Love and Sex  Theme Icon
Spade returns to the office an hour later in uncharacteristically high spirits. Effie tells him that Luke called about Cairo, and then she asks if he found Brigid. He kisses Effie on the nose and tells her he’ll let her know about everything when he come back from seeing Luke. At Cairo’s hotel, Luke tells him that Cairo just checked out of the hotel. They search his hotel room again but find no clues.
The jump in the narrative should make the reader more mistrustful of Spade because we have no idea how he spent the last hour. The reader won’t be able to confirm or deny anything he tells Effie about the hour he spent away from the office because the reader doesn’t know what happened.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Spade returns to the office and tells Effie that during the hour he was gone, he interviewed crewmen from the La Paloma. From the interviews, Spade was able to piece together that Brigid, Gutman, Cairo, Wilmer, and Captain Jacobi of the La Paloma had all met onboard the ship the previous night. As Spade is in the middle of explaining how the fire was probably started by accident, a tall gaunt man with a package under his arm barges into the office, muttering the words “You know-“ before falling to the ground. As the man dies, Spade cradles him and barks at Effie to lock the door.
The man’s last words are “You know-,” which are important words in a novel where everyone is seeking knowledge, and no one seems to know. These two words could be an accusation against Spade or an indication that the man is trying to tell Spade something. The irony is that we don’t know what the man was going to say and we’ll never know, because now he’s dead. These last words illustrate how knowledge in the novel is always just beyond our grasp.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Spade inspects the body and sees that the man has been shot a half a dozen times. Spade then unwraps the package to find the falcon. With absolute elation, he lifts the bird over his head, not realizing that he is standing on the dead man’s hand. As he revels in his triumph, Effie gets a call from Brigid who is at Gutman’s hotel and claims to be danger.
Greed for the falcon makes Spade momentarily appear coldhearted. In fact, his mind is so clouded by greed, Spade doesn’t pay attention to where he’s standing, causing him to disrespect the corpse of the dead man by stepping on his hand. And then Spade must weight the value of the falcon against the prospect of Brigid being in trouble (or lying about being in trouble).
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
Fate and Death Theme Icon
Love and Sex  Theme Icon
Get the entire The Maltese Falcon LitChart as a printable PDF.
The maltese falcon.pdf.medium
Before leaving, Spade tells Effie to call the police and let them know about the body, but to conceal any information about the falcon and the relationship between this man, who he believes is Captain Jacobi, and Brigid. Before leaving with the falcon under his arm, he affectionately rubs her cheek and says she’s “a damn good man, sister.”
Spade’s line to Effie reveals how he sees her as both a sister and a male friend. As such, he has trust but no sexual desire for her. Perhaps the novel suggests that, for Spade, trusting a woman cannot coexist with desire for her.
Themes
Masculinity, Femininity, and Sexuality  Theme Icon