The Maltese Falcon

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Maltese Falcon published in 1992.
Chapter 1 Quotes

He looked rather pleasantly like a blonde satan.

Related Characters: Sam Spade
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Right away, Hammett introduces us to his antihero, Sam Spade. Spade is the "hero" of the novel, in the sense that he's its main character, and has a definite moral code (the code that leads him to avenge his partner's death at the end of the book). And yet Spade is anything but a conventional pillar of justice. On the contrary, he's an adulterer, and seems to have little compunction about hurting women and, at times, framing people for murder. He is, in short, half hero and half villain--a description that mirrors his appearance ("blonde satan"). Spade's personality was an important influence on the antihero archetype in noir and crime fiction: Spade isn't exactly a good guy, but he's a little better than the bad guys, and he's at least smart, intriguing, and attractive enough that we can't help rooting for him.


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Chapter 3 Quotes

Her thin fingers finished shaping the cigarette. She licked it, smoothed it, twisted its ends, and placed it between Spade’s lips. He said, “Thanks, honey,” put an arm around her slim waist, and rested his cheek wearily against her hip, shutting his eyes.

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Effie Perine
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Sam enjoys an close relationship with his secretary and assistant, Effie. There's clearly some sexual tension between them--in this scene, for example, Effie licks a cigarette and then places it in Space's mouth--and yet Effie and Spade's relationship seems deeper and more trusting than a mere sexual fling. Spade seems to turn to Effie for comfort and emotional support--here, for example, he rests his body against hers. Spade also trusts Effie's judgment and detective instincts, as we'll come to see. The passage is important, then, because it shows us Spade's strengths and weaknesses with regards to women: he sees women as objects for his sexual gratification, yet he's also capable of respecting women for their intelligence and abilities. (This passage is also a good example of the casual sexism that has become an integral part of the noir genre--Spade naturally feels comfortable calling his employee "honey" and putting his arm around her "slim" waist.)

Chapter 4 Quotes

Diamonds twinkled on the second and fourth fingers of his left hand, a ruby that matched the one in his tie even to the surrounding diamonds on the third finger of his right hand. His hands were soft and well cared for. Though they were not large their flaccid bluntness made them seem clumsy.

Related Characters: Joel “Joe” Cairo
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to one of the primary villains of the novel, Joe Cairo. Notice the way the passage emphasizes the tiny details of Cairo's appearance, almost as if we're seeing Cairo from Spade's point of view--i.e., the point of view of an experienced detective adept at picking up on tiny details. Cairo is described as being very effeminate, with his soft hands and pretty jewelry. His appearance contrasts markedly with Spade--Cairo is overtly womanish while Spade is aggressively masculine. Also note that the passage describes Cairo as an overtly foreign character--his rings and exotic name suggest Egypt, or the vague East.

It's been suggested that Cairo is supposed to be a queer character (though in Hammett's lifetime, it was more or less impossible to write about overt homosexuality). More generally, one could say that Cairo's effeminacy emphasizes the basic masculinity of Spade's worldview. Spade is a manly man--he drinks, has sex with beautiful women, smokes, etc. Many of the evil characters in the novel are either women or effeminate men--showing Hammett's rather sexist, homophobic (and in the case of Cairo, racist) worldview. He clearly prefers people with Spade's rugged, manly, all-American code of right and wrong.

Chapter 7 Quotes

“His second wife didn’t look like the first, but they were more alike than they were different. You know, the kind of women that play fair games of golf and bridge and like new salad-recipes…I don’t think he even knew he settled back naturally into the same groove he had jumped out of in Tacoma.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Flitcraft
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, Spade tells Brigid, soon to be his lover, a story about a case he investigated a few years ago. Spade tracked down a man named Flitcraft who, after a brush with death, suddenly left his wife and family and moved far away, hoping to change his life and savor it more. Spade discovered, however, that Flitcraft had soon taken up a new job, wife, and family--and moreover, his new wife looked a little like his first. The irony of the story is that Flitcraft ran away from his old life, only to start up another life that was almost exactly the same.

Spade's story emphasizes the idea of fate or a person's inherent "nature." Flitcraft forcefully tried to change himself, but he soon returned to his old ways. Similarly, Spade will later suggest that Brigid will always be deceitful, no matter how hard she tries to be honest, and no matter how much she may love Spade. The story of Flitcraft also shows how most people deal with their own mortality--they try to ignore it. Flitcraft decided to savor life after nearly being struck by a steel beam. But after only a few months, Flitcraft stopped thinking about death and "settled down" once again.

“He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Flitcraft
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

Spade continues telling Brigid the story of Flitcraft, the strange man whom he tracked down a few years ago. Flitcraft chose to run away from his wife for one simple reason: he nearly died. While walking by a construction site, Flitcraft was nearly killed by a falling steel beam: the experience scarred him, reminding him that his life was short and fragile.

The story tells us a lot about Spade's code of right and wrong--a code that, we sense, is rooted in an acknowledgment of death. Spade is surrounded by death and danger at all times--yet, like Flitcraft, he finds a way to "adjust" himself to the danger and survive. Spade accepts the presence of death in his life, and proceeds normally. Flitcraft couldn't handle this acceptance for long, however, and so he soon slipped back into his old complacency, assuming that death was far away and unreal.

“And when you’re slapped you’ll take it and like it.” He released Cairo’s wrist and with a thick open hand struck the side of his face three times, savagely.

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Joel “Joe” Cairo
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Spade punishes Joe Cairo for slapping Brigid. Joe is angry with Brigid for bringing up a relationship between herself and a man in Constantinople. Spade is so angry that he slaps Joe, suggesting that Joe is a weak fool for hitting a woman. Spade's anger also suggests that he can't stand the knowledge that Brigid has been with another man recently--by this point in the novel, he's romantically interested in her.

The scene could be interpreted as politically incorrect, or even downright homophobic by modern standards. Seen one way, Spade is doling out a just punishment to the villainous Cairo; in a different sense, Spade is just bullying the effeminate Cairo for his own satisfaction (and, we sense, Hammett's). Perhaps Spade's behavior in the passage is meant to illustrate his blunt yet principled version of justice: if somebody hits a woman, he gets hit in return. Hammett acknowledges that Spade is "savage," but also seems to respect Spade for protecting Brigid and asserting his masculinity.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“Oh, I’m so tired,” she said tremulously, “so tired of it all, of myself, of lying and thinking up lies, and not knowing what is a lie and what is the truth.”

Related Characters: Brigid O’Shaughnessy (speaker), Sam Spade
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

Sam Spade is starting to figure out the truth about Brigid. Brigid has been involved in tracking down a mysterious falcon statue that's worth a lot of money, and she's traveled to Constantinople to do so. Spade asks Brigid probing questions. In the middle of the questioning, Brigid feigns weariness and tries to seduce Spade--with great success.

We can't take anything Brigid says in the passage seriously. While it's true that she's been telling lies, she's perfectly in control of what she says (at this point at least). Brigid is only pretending to be tired and confused in order to distract Spade from figuring out the truth--in other words, she uses her sexuality to distract Spade, acting like a classic femme fatale.

Chapter 11 Quotes

“Well, sir, here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.”

Related Characters: Casper Gutman (speaker), Sam Spade
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Spade meets "the fat man" Casper Gutman. Along with Joe Cairo, whom we're already met, Gutman is one of the main villains in the novel--a greedy arch-criminal whose desire for the Maltese Falcon is suggested by his enormous weight. Ironically, Gutman greets Spade by making a toast to plain speaking (and in a typically masculine, friendly way designed to appeal to Spade). In reality, of course, Gutman favors anything but plain speaking--he's trying to deceive Spade and win the Falcon at all costs. Whenever a character in this novel starts to sound honest (Gutman, Cairo, Brigid), look out: it's a sure sign that they're about to tell a lie.

“Keep that grunsel away from me while you’re making up your mind. I’ll kill him. I don’t like him. He makes me nervous. I’ll kill him the first time he gets in my way. I won’t give him an even break. I won’t give him a chance. I’ll kill him.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Casper Gutman , Wilmer Cook
Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Sam Spade, who's been talking to Casper Gutman, notices Gutman's henchmen, a young man named Wilmer. Spade calls Wilmer a "gunsel," a slang term that means both "homosexual" and "gunman."

First, notice that Spade threatens to kill Wilmer. It's possible that Spade is threatening to kill the man in order to intimidate Gutman into being honest--Spade doesn't want Gutman to double-cross him, and the best way to avoid a double-cross is to let everyone know that he (Spade) is dangerous.

Second, the passage reinforces the homophobia and aggressive masculinity of Spade's universe. Spade is, indeed, "uncomfortable" around Wilmer, for much the same reasons that he was uncomfortable around Joe Cairo (another villainous character whom the novel portrays as effeminate). Spade's status as the antihero of the novel--dangerous, but also the protector of right and wrong--is closely linked to his status as the most masculine character in the novel.

Chapter 14 Quotes

My clients are entitled to a decent amount of secrecy. Maybe I can be made to talk to a Grand Jury or even a Coroner’s Jury, but I haven’t been called before either yet, and it’s a cinch I’m not going to advertise my clients’ business until I have to.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), District Attorney Bryan
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

As the novel goes on, Spade has to fight off calls and meetings from lawyers and police officers who think that Spade had something to do with the death of his partner. In this passage, Spade tells the District Attorney, Bryan, that he can't disclose everything he deals with in the course of a day: his clients have the right to a certain amount of privacy, and Spade is reluctant to violate that right.

Should we take Spade seriously? Spade doesn't want to disclose his current case, but not because of his respect for people's rights, but rather because he thinks the case could lead to the Maltese Falcon. Spade has been shown to have some moral code, so it's certainly possible that he genuinely believes his clients have rights--but Spade is also greedy, and doesn't exactly express any strict "rules" here. The passage is also important because it shows that Spade is"caught halfway between law and crime: as a private investigator, he's not a cop or a criminal--the very definition of an antihero.

“And my only chance of ever catching them and tying them up and bringing them in is by keeping away from you and the police, because neither of you show any signs of knowing what in hell it’s all about.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), District Attorney Bryan
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

District Attorney Bryant suspects Spade of the murder of Spade's partner, Archer. Spade angrily tells Bryant that his only way of clearing his name is to "take the law into his own hands" by tracking down the real killers, and avoiding the police, who would only bungle things.

Spade makes an interesting point. Unlike the DA, Spade doesn't have to play by other people's rules--as a result, he's a much more capable crime-solver than any government detective could be (at least in the world of the book). Spade also proves that he knows how to deal with bureaucrats like Bryant: at times, he's blunt and to the point, stating that he intends to clear his name by doing what he does best--solve crimes. This whole conversation also reinforces Spade as the archetype of the "lone wolf" detective--going against authority and acting rude and rebellious, but turning out to be right in the end. The fact that this trope has been done and re-done countless times since Hammett's work shouldn't diminish the original's intrigue.

Chapter 16 Quotes

“Sam Spade,” she said, “you’re the most contemptible man God ever made when you want to be. Because she did something without confiding in you you’d sit here and do nothing when you know she’s in danger.”

Related Characters: Effie Perine (speaker), Sam Spade, Brigid O’Shaughnessy
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we see Effie acting as Sam Spade's conscience (and flirtatious mother/sister figure). Effie knows that Sam Spade has just had a meal with Polhaus and also met with the District Attorney. Spade, back in his office, tells Effie that Brigid may have been on the ship La Poloma when it caught on fire the previous night. Spade is calm and laid-back as he gives Effie this information: Effie is disgusted that Spade can seem so indifferent. Spade shows no signs of wanting to look for Brigid to make sure she's okay.

Why is Spade so indifferent to Brigid's dangerous situation? Effie suggests that Spade doesn't like the fact that Brigid went off and did something on her own--in other words, Spade doesn't like it when women keep him out of the loop. Effie is an interesting character--it's possible to interpret her as the only positive female character in the novel, a reminder that Hammett doesn't always conflate evil and effeminacy (although she's also presented as the most masculine female character). Of course, it's also possible to interpret Effie's statements as wrong and distracting: Effie wants Sam to give Brigid "some space," when--we later learn--Brigid is actually the villain, and has been plotting against Spade for some time.

The tall man stood in the doorway and there was nothing to showw that he saw Spade. He said, “You know –” and then the liquid bubbling came up in his throat and submerged whatever else he said.

Related Characters: Captain Jacobi (speaker), Sam Spade
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

In this bizarre scene, Spade is sitting in his office when a strange man barges in, carrying a mysterious package. The man, Captain Jacobi (whom we've never seen before in the narrative), has been shot many times. He falls dead on the ground, but not before saying the words, "You know."

It's strangely appropriate that the man's dying words should be about knowledge--and that he should die before he gets to complete his sentence. Captain Jacobi proves that in the novel, knowledge is always just beyond the character's reach--up to the end of the book, we're always this close to finding out what's going on, only to be interrupted by death, violence, or more mysteries.

He stepped back holding it up in front of him and blew dust off it, regarding it triumphantly. Effie Perine made a horrified face and screamed, pointing at his feet. He looked down at his feet. His last backward step had brought his left heel into contact with the dead man’s hand, pinching a quarter-inch of flesh at a side of the palm between the heel and the floor. Spade jerked his foot away from the hand.

Related Characters: Sam Spade, Effie Perine, Captain Jacobi
Related Symbols: The Maltese Falcon
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Spade allows himself to be overcome with greed. Captain Jacobi has just stumbled into his office, dying, with a package containing what appears to be the legendary Maltese Falcon. Spade is so elated by the discovery of the Falcon that he holds it above his head, stepping on Jacob's dead body in the process.

The passage is notable for a couple reasons. First, notice that it's Effie who alerts Spade to the fact that he's disrespecting a dead body--as usual, Effie is the voice of right and wrong. Second, notice that Spade has finally given in to greed and desire--he's heard so much about the Falcon that he's willing to compromise his own moral code (disrespecting the dead) to celebrate. Also, notice that Spade holds the Falcon over his head (an act that would be nearly impossible, one would think, if the bird were actually gold, as it's rumored to be). Perhaps Hammett is foreshadowing the novel's final "twist," that the Falcon is a fake.

He took his hand from his chin and rubbed her cheek. “You’re a damned good man, sister,” he said and went out.

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Effie Perine
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

Spade leaves his office, just after having found the famous Maltese Falcon. Spade thanks Effie for all her help--he admits that he couldn't do his job if it wasn't for Effie working as his assistant. Oddly, Spade refers to Effie as both a "man" and a "sister."

Spade's behavior suggests that he can't get along with a woman and be sexually attracted to her at the same time. Effie thus isn't really a woman at all, from his perspective--she's more like family, or a close male friend. Hammett associates masculinity, goodness, and competence so strongly that the one positive female character in his novel--Effie--is actually depicted as masculine.

Chapter 18 Quotes

“At one time or another I’ve had to tell everybody from the Supreme Court down to go to hell, and I’ve got away with it. I got away with it because I never let myself forget that a day of reckoning was coming. I never forget that when the day of reckoning comes I want to be all set to march into headquarters pushing a victim in front of me, saying: ‘Here, you chumps, is your criminal!’ As long as I can do that I can put my thumb to my nose and wriggle my fingers at all the laws in the book.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Casper Gutman
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Spade begins to craft a story to tell the police. Spade knows the ironclad rule of law enforcement: somebody has to go to jail. Indeed, spade has always been able to coexist with the police and the crime world because he respects such a rule: he can get away with disrespecting authorities because he gets results, and sends people to prison at the right time. Now (partly because there's a lot of suspicion directed at Spade himself), Spade knows he has to send someone to jail for the murder of Thursby and Jacobi.

The passage shows Spade at his most villainous, and his most anti-heroic. Spade doesn't bother to talk about whether the people he sends to jail are or guilty or innocent--on the contrary, he just talks about "getting results." Spade obeys a set of rules, and yet his "code" seems immoral by any standard: Spade is even willing to send innocent people to prison for crimes they didn't commit, as long as it maintains his independence and the general sense that "justice" has been served.

“Bryan is like most district attorneys. He’s more interested in how his record will look on paper than anything else. He’d rather drop a doubtful case than try it and have it go against him. I don’t know that he ever deliberately framed anybody he believed innocent if he could scrape up, or twist into shape, proof of their guilt.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Casper Gutman , District Attorney Bryan
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

Spade continues to try to convince Casper Gutman to frame Wilmer Cook for the murders of Jacobi and Thursby. Spade knows that somebody needs to go to jail for the murders--furthermore, he knows that the District Attorney, Bryant, will want to "get results" by sending someone to prison. Spade admits that Bryant doesn't exactly "frame" innocent people, but he suggests that Bryant does twist the truth to ensure a conviction.

In short, Spade shows that he knows all about the world of law enforcement. In the hard-boiled world of Hammett's novel, officials don't really care about right and wrong at all--they just care about how their reputations seem on paper. Bryant, a powerful man, is easy to control, because he's so deeply invested in his career and his public appearance. Therefore, Spade can sent Wilmer to prison, knowing that Wilmer's (relative) innocence of some crimes won't seriously bother Bryant at all.

Chapter 19 Quotes

“Well, Wilmer, I’m sorry indeed to lose you, and I want you to know that I couldn’t be any fonder of you if you were my own son; but – well, by Gad! – if you lose a son it’s possible to get another – and there’s only one Maltese falcon.”

Related Characters: Casper Gutman (speaker), Wilmer Cook
Related Symbols: The Maltese Falcon
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Casper Gutman's deviousness couldn't be clearer. Spade knows that somebody needs to go to jail: he suggests that he and Casper frame Casper's henchman, Wilmer Cook, for the murders of Thursby and Jacobi. Gutman is at first reluctant to give up Wilmer, whom he describes as being "like a son to me." But within just a couple minutes, Gutman gives up his "son," reasoning that the Maltese Falcon is more valuable to him. Gutman thinks that he'll be able to get the Falcon with Spade's help, get off scot-free for the murders, and live happily ever after--sending Wilmer to jail is a small price to pay.

The irony, of course, is that there are, in fact, multiple falcons--indeed, the "Maltese Falcon" in Gutman's possession is actually a fake. Gutman sacrifices his loyalties and his friendships for the sake of material possessions--possessions that turn out to be worthless.

Chapter 20 Quotes

He was pale. He said tenderly, “I hope to Christ they don’t hang you, precious, by that sweet neck.” He slid his hands up to caress her throat… “You’ll be out again in twenty years. You’re an angel. I’ll wait for you.” He cleared his throat. “If they hang you I’ll always remember you.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Brigid O’Shaughnessy
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Spade discovers the truth: he knows that Brigid was the one who murdered his partner, Miles Archer. The passage is important because it shows Spade in the midst of a genuine moral crisis. One one hand, Spade doesn't want to send Brigid to jail for the murder--he seems to care about her deeply. And yet Spade also acknowledges the truth: she's guilty, and there's a possibility that the jury will sentence her to be hanged.

The passage shows Spade at his most callous. He's capable of feelings for Brigid, but he also recognizes that she's a murderous, devious woman. As a result, he decides to punish her for killing his partner--upholding his own moral code, but also acting especially callous and sexist, caressing Brigid like a beautiful object even as he cynically contemplates her potential death.

“When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Brigid O’Shaughnessy
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hammett gives us a clear sense of Spade's moral code. Spade knows that Brigid was the one who murdered his partner, Miles Archer. Although Spade didn't particularly like his partner at all, he knows that the "right thing" is to avenge his partner's death. There's a strong code of cooperation and mutual respect in Spade's work, and Spade obeys this code at all times, even if it leads him to work with people like Archer, whom he doesn't like at all (and whose wife is sleeping with him).

The passage is fascinating because it shows that, in the end, Spade is more loyal to a man he hates than a women he cares about. The code of right and wrong that Spade obeys is, at the most basic level, a masculine code: Spade gives men a form of respect and trust that he would never give to women. The passage could be interpreted as the clearest expression of the novel's sexism: real men are rugged and honorable, while women are devious and emotional.

“I’m a detective and expecting me to run criminals down and then let them go free is like asking a dog to catch a rabbit and let it go. It can be done, all right, and sometimes it is done, but it’s not the natural thing.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Brigid O’Shaughnessy
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Spade continues to give his reasons for turning Brigid in to the police. Spade's explanation is curious because it makes him look weak and powerless--just a pawn in a vast "natural order of things." Spade explains that it's the natural order for a detective to turn someone in to the police: when there's a crime, somebody has to go to jail. Spade's reliance on such an order leads him to send Brigid to prison--in spite of his feelings for Brigid, somebody has to be punished for murder.

Spade exemplifies an independent, macho way of looking at the world: he "is what he is," and refuses to change for anyone or anything. Spade could conceivably let Brigid go free and start a new life somewhere with her, but he's too loyal to his own sense of law and order.

“Would you have done this to me if the falcon had been real and you had been paid your money?”
“What difference does that make now? Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be. That kind of reputation might be good business – bringing in high-priced jobs and making it easier to deal with the enemy.”

Related Characters: Sam Spade (speaker), Brigid O’Shaughnessy (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Maltese Falcon
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

Brigid angrily asks Spade to tell her the truth: would he have turned her in to the police if the Maltese Falcon had been real? Brigid is implying that Spade wouldn't have been so focused on "doing the right thing" if he'd suddenly been made rich.

It's hard to deny that Brigid has a point. We've already seen that Spade is willing to sacrifice his values when he gets his hands on something valuable--remember the scene in which he stands on Jacobi's dead body because he thinks he has the falcon (a great metaphor for the way money corrupts).

And yet Spade insists that he is a just man: he just pretends to be devious and corrupt in order to attract the right clients and make friends with the right people (as he sarcastically and rather cruelly says here). In his mind, Spade is a good man: he just pretends to be corrupt because it's useful to his business, but in reality he's always thinking about doing the moral thing. Again, Hammett doesn't tell us whether we're supposed to believe Spade or not. Spade claims he knows how to keep good and evil separate--but perhaps in the course of his work, he's begun to confuse the two.

She escaped from his arm as if it had hurt her. “Don’t, please, don’t touch me,” she said brokenly. “I know – I know you’re right. You’re right. But don’t touch me now – not now.” Spade’s face became pale as his collar.

Related Characters: Effie Perine (speaker), Sam Spade
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

At the finale of the novel, Spade returns to his office, having ratted out Brigid, the woman he loved. Spade tells Effie what he did, and Effie is horrified. She admits that Spade did the "right thing" (avenged his partner's death, turned in a criminal, etc.), but also suggests that Spade acted for the wrong reasons--and that thus he is now repulsive to her. (Note also that the thing that's so shocking is that Effie doesn't allow Spade to touch her--emphasizing how "natural" it was for the hyper-masculine Spade to always feel comfortable touching his female employee.)

The passage is very complicated and can be interpreted in any number of ways. Effie, who's been a voice of reason and morality throughout the novel, seems to be criticizing Spade for his unjust behavior--perhaps Effie senses (as Brigid did) that Spade wouldn't have been so eager for justice had he gotten his hands on the real Maltese Falcon. But perhaps Hammett's point is just the opposite: perhaps Spade is ultimately a noble, if not admirable character because he does the right thing, even when the "right thing" is terrible--sending a woman to hang.

Spade seems to sense that he's done something horribly wrong, and to suddenly doubt his decision--hence his pale face. And yet Spade has already acted decisively, seemingly totally confident in the morality of his actions. As a private investigator--halfway between the cops and the criminals--Spade's burden is to make difficult, morally ambiguous decisions, and live with the guilt and the consequences.

No matches.