The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Marlowe is back at Geiger’s house, the scene of the previous night’s crime. He realizes he didn’t check the garage at the time of the murder; he won’t get a chance to do so now, however, as Carmen is skulking around the front door when he arrives. She is nervous and looks tired. He reintroduces himself as “Doghouse Reilly,” and she remembers him.
Marlowe teases Carmen by giving a fake name, not only to poke fun at her simple-mindedness, but also as an instinctive reaction as he does not trust her. The debauchery of the previous night has taken its toll on Carmen, who appears physically weakened by the experience.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
In the daylight, Geiger’s Asian interior decorations disgust Marlowe, who sees the aesthetic as a “stealthy nastiness, like a fag party.”
The strength of Marlowe’s feeling and wording reflects the rigidity of his concept of appropriate gender roles. Geiger’s “nastiness” contrasts with Marlowe’s strict moral code, one that conforms with traditional American masculine ideals.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Carmen can’t keep up her smile, which keeps faltering. Her eyes are vacant. Marlowe sees that she is not intelligent or principled, and that no one is guiding her. This makes him angry with “the rich.”
Marlowe despises Carmen for her lack of intelligence and moral scruples, yet he also notes that this is not her fault alone. She has been raised poorly, with no one to teach her any better. As such, those in authority over Carmen are as much to blame for her behavior and character flaws as she is.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Marlowe asks Carmen why she is there and how much she remembers. She claims she was sick at home last night. When Marlowe reminds her of the fact that she’d been sitting on the high-backed chair the evening before, she blushes. Once she understands that he is not the police, she relaxes.
Carmen lies to Marlowe, suspecting he is the police. Once she realizes he was the man who helped her the previous night, and has clearly not called the police, she feels more comfortable. Notably, it is Marlowe’s moral ambiguity in this situation that warms Carmen to him—she is more comfortable with dubious figures.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Get the entire The Big Sleep LitChart as a printable PDF.
The big sleep.pdf.medium
Carmen asks Marlowe who else knows about the previous night. He says the police don’t, or they’d still be at the house. Maybe Joe Brody, Marlowe says. At this Carmen reacts instantly, declaring that Joe was the murderer.
In an uncharacteristically leading question, Marlowe offers Carmen the idea that Joe Brody was the murderer. Her unintelligent mind, and prior hatred of Brody, latches onto this idea. Perhaps Marlowe thinks Carmen needs more help providing information than the other people he has interrogated so far.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe doubts Carmen’s honesty. She says she hates Joe Brody, which Marlowe points out gives her the motive to blame him for the murder. She struggles to understand his logic. When Marlowe asks her if she’d be willing to testify to the police if he could sort out the nude photo blackmailers, she giggles.
The detective knows to treat Carmen’s accusation with skepticism, especially given his leading question. To Carmen, her nude photos are simply funny, all part of the good fun that comprises her decadent lifestyle.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Carmen’s laughter becomes hysterical, echoing around the house. Marlowe slaps her. She stops laughing but otherwise doesn’t react to the slap; Marlowe supposes all her boyfriends slap her.
Just as Carmen does not react with shame to the nude photos, Marlowe’s slap does not shock her. It seems she has become desensitized to debauchery and violence.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Carmen tells Marlowe she knows his real name and that he’s a detective, as Mrs. Regan told her so. He tells her that the photo is gone, assuming that’s what she came to get. Marlowe reconfirms that she blames Joe Brody, before instructing her to go home and tell no one she was ever there.
Although she is unashamed of the photos while talking to Marlowe, it appears Carmen is aware of the inconvenience of her photo being left at the scene of a murder. Thus, her self-interest has driven her to return to Geiger’s house.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
As Carmen puts her hand on the door, they hear a car approach. They hear footsteps and then the doorbell rings. Carmen panics. After ringing the bell for a while, the person on the other side of the door puts a key in the lock. A man walks in, looking at Carmen and Marlowe without emotion.
While Carmen physically shakes with fear at the sound of someone at the door, both Marlowe and the man who enter maintain their composure, indicating the author’s depiction of self-control and fearlessness as a masculine characteristic.
Themes
Masculinity Theme Icon