The novel’s protagonist, Sam Spade is a handsome private detective. Although he sleeps with his partner’s wife, Iva Archer, and struggles with an almost greedy desire for wealth, the novel reveals his unshakable ethical… (read full character analysis)
First introducing herself under a false backstory as Miss Wonderly, Brigid O’Shaughnessy employs Sam Spade for protection against the criminal Casper Gutman. She is the novel’s master liar, tricking men and women alike into… (read full character analysis)
Also known as Mr. G, Casper Gutman is the novel’s arch-villain, using his wealth and complete lack of loyalty or scruples to attain the statue of the Maltese falcon. He employed Joel Cairo and… (read full character analysis)
Casper Gutman’s employee, Cairo uses intimidation and deceit in his pursuit of the Maltese falcon. He, Floyd Thursby, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy worked together to steal the falcon from the Russian general Kemidov. Wearing… (read full character analysis)
Another of Casper Gutman’s employees, Wilmer is the unnamed figure in the shadows who follows Sam Spade around San Francisco. Hot-tempered and quick to violence, Wilmer attempts to compensate for his young age and physical slightness with insults, big talk, and two large pistol.
Sam Spade’s office assistant, Effie is compassionate, trustful, and boyish-looking. She’s perhaps the only character Spade trusts and their compassion for each other seems almost familial.
Miles Archer’s wife and Samuel Spade’s lover. Often swayed by her passions, she often acts rashly. The novel ends with Spade having to decide if he will continue their relationship despite his lack of deep affection for her.
Samuel Spade’s partner who ends up dead after following Floyd Thursby. Archer is a forty-year-old subpar detective who is easily seduced by women.
Brigid O’Shaughnessy and Joel Cairo’s partner in stealing the Maltese falcon from Kemidov’s home in Constantinople. Although he never appears in the novel, we are told Thursby was in love with Brigid and had a reputation for loyalty to women.
A good-natured police officer who provides Sam Spade with information about the murder cases.
An arrogant and incompetent police officer who keeps trying to peg different murders on Sam Spade.
Loyal to Brigid O’Shaughnessy, he is the captain of the La Paloma and brought the Maltese falcon from Hong Kong to San Francisco on his boat. He successfully brings the falcon to Sam Spade despite being shot, and dies on Sam’s office floor.
District Attorney Bryan
An incompetent authority figure who threatens Sam Spade with legal action unless he gives up information about his clients.
The in-house detective at Joel Cairo’s hotel.
The Russian general living in Constantinople who has possession of the Maltese falcon.
Sam Spade’s lawyer.
Brigid O’Shaughnessy’s fictional sister who she claims is Floyd Thursby’s pregnant lover.
Miles Archer’s brother who comes to San Francisco looking for justice for his brother.
The in-house detective at one of the hotels where Brigid O’Shaughnessy stays.
A mobster with gambling debts who formerly employed Floyd Thursby as a body guard.