The Maltese Falcon

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The Maltese Falcon Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Not wanting to betray Wilmer, Cairo considers forgoing the pursuit of the bird, but Spade says if he does then they’ll have to turn him in alongside his “boyfriend” Wilmer. Wilmer awakes, but without any guns and aware that everyone has betrayed him, he silently sulks in the corner. After Cairo reluctantly agrees to betray Wilmer, Spade tells Gutman to provide him the information about the murders so he can convincingly frame Wilmer.
In order to get him to betray Wilmer, Spade emasculates and insults Cairo by implying that he and Wilmer are lovers. Although the novel gives little indication of Wilmer’s sexual orientation, Cairo’s loyalty to him may reveal his love for and possible romantic relationship with Wilmer.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Masculinity, Femininity, and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Love and Sex  Theme Icon
Gutman explains that Wilmer killed Thursby so that Brigid would fear that she was next and would give Gutman the falcon. During their meeting on the ship La Paloma, Brigid and Jacobi agreed to give Gutman the bird after he threatened to kill them, but they managed to escape. After some searching, Gutman and his crew were able to locate Brigid’s hotel. At the hotel, Wilmer shot Jacobi while he was trying to run off with the bird. Although Jacobi got away, the criminals forced Brigid to call Spade and pretend to be in danger so that he left the office, giving Wilmer time to intercept Jacobi before he could give the falcon to Spade.
As Gutman’s story reveals, greed and their desire for the falcon drive Gutman and Wilmer to kill without remorse. Although we cannot necessarily trust Gutman, he now has a self-serving reason to tell Spade the truth. The reason is that Spade must know the details of the crime so that he can successfully frame Wilmer.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
Satisfied with the info, Spade asks Brigid to make them some coffee. During the struggle with Wilmer, Gutman had noticed Brigid pick up the envelope with the cash. As she goes to the kitchen, Gutman asks if she can leave the envelope behind. She agrees and gives the envelope to Spade, who throws it at Gutman, saying that if he’s so worried about the money, then he can hold on to the envelope for now.
Spade’s lack of concern about the money may reveal that greed is not his chief motive. However, giving Gutman the envelop may also be a ploy to show Gutman that Spade is so in control that it doesn’t matter who holds the money because, in the end, Spade will be the one with the cash.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
After counting the money, Gutman claims that one of the one-thousand dollar bills is missing and accuses Brigid of stealing it. Although she denies his accusation, Spade takes her to the bathroom and forces her to undress in order to confirm that she’s not hiding it in her clothes. As she undresses, she tells Spade that he is killing something in their relationship by seeing her naked like this. When Spade is satisfied that she isn’t hiding the bill, he returns to the living-room.
Spade would rather have the utmost control over the situation than trust Brigid. Brigid, however, tells him that he risks ruining their relationship by valuing control and verifiable knowledge about the location of the bill over trust in her. She doesn’t mind him seeing her naked, she just wants it to be in a moment of trust, of love. Or she wants Spade to think that’s important to her, to think that she loves him.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Love and Sex  Theme Icon
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Brigid goes into the kitchen to prepare food and coffee as Spade confronts Gutman, claiming that Gutman himself stole the bill while he counted the money. After Spade says he’ll search him if he doesn’t admit to stealing it, Gutman quickly produces the crumbled up bill from his pocket and puts it back into the envelope. Gutman claims he was testing Spade to see how he would react and that Spade passed his test. Brigid then enters the living-room with the food. They eat and remain silent until morning arrives
Although it comes as no surprise, Gutman cannot be trusted. He and Spade are battling for control through a series of deception and lies. Spade asserts control by seeing through Gutman’s deception, but then Gutman asserts control by saying his deception was in fact a test to see if Spade could see through it. Whether he was testing Spade’s acuity, testing whether Spade would search Brigid, or making up that the whole thing was a test, isn’t clear. Meanwhile, Brigid has been sidelined and made to perform traditional domestic duties.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
Masculinity, Femininity, and Sexuality  Theme Icon
After sunrise, Spade calls Effie, gives her the info about the bird’s location, and asks her to bring it to his apartment. An hour later, she appears with the package, hands it to Spade at the doorway, and leaves. After tearing the package open, Gutman chips away at the falcon’s black enamel and finds that the statue is made of lead instead of gold. Realizing it’s a fake, Gutman shouts in rage and Spade accuses Brigid of tricking them, but she and Cairo both claim that this statue was the same one they stole from Kemidov. In the confusion, Wilmer slips out of the apartment.
The symbol of greed, the falcon, itself turns out to be a fake, suggesting that greed is ultimately worthless. The falcon may also be a symbol for the final truths that Spade seeks to uncover. In this way, the bird’s fakeness implies that people can never get their hands on ultimate truths, that such ultimate truths may not even exist, that at heart life is just a series of deceptions with no end. Recall how this resonates with the story of Flitcraft, who briefly glimpsed a profound if terrible truth—we all die—and then deceived himself and eventually went back to an identical version of his previous life.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
Gutman explains that Kemidov must have discovered the true worth of the statue and replaced it with this decoy in order to protect the real one. Gutman decides to return to Constantinople in order to locate the real statue. Gutman then asks for the envelope with the cash. Spade refuses, at which point Gutman reveals a golden gun. Spade returns the envelope, but first takes one of the bills as a bribe for not calling the police. Gutman allows him to take it and he and Cairo leave the apartment.
Even though the statue is a fake, Gutman will not give up his unyielding pursuit of the bird, showing the obsessive power of greed. Gutman’s golden gun symbolizes how violence and greed are counterparts to one another. Meanwhile, Spade giving himself a bribe again calls into question his own ethics.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions  Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon