Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Big Sleep: Introduction
The Big Sleep: Plot Summary
The Big Sleep: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Big Sleep: Themes
The Big Sleep: Quotes
The Big Sleep: Characters
The Big Sleep: Terms
The Big Sleep: Symbols
The Big Sleep: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Raymond Chandler
Historical Context of The Big Sleep
Other Books Related to The Big Sleep
- Full Title: The Big Sleep
- Where Written: California, U.S.
- When Published: 1939
- Literary Period: Modernist
- Genre: Crime fiction, pulp fiction
- Setting: Los Angeles, U.S.
- Climax: Private detective Philip Marlowe locates the missing Mona Mars and must win a shootout against her guard, Lash Canino.
- Antagonist: L.A.’s moral decay
- Point of View: First-person narration by Philip Marlowe
Extra Credit for The Big Sleep
Alcoholism. Chandler’s protagonist Philip Marlowe often turns to drink to drown his sorrows. This appears to be partially autobiographical, as Chandler himself had issues with alcohol. He lost his high-paying job in an oil company in part due to his alcoholism, and after his wife’s death, Chandler became a less prolific writer as he continued to drink heavily.
Eye for detail. Critics praise Chandler for his eye for details related to character’s outfits, interior decoration, and scenery—but less so for plot. When directing the screen adaptation of The Big Sleep, director Howard Hawks asked Chandler who was responsible for Owen Taylor’s death, and Chandler couldn’t give him an answer.