The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is evening as Marlowe returns to Joe Brody’s apartment. The door opens slowly after the detective’s knock, and “a brown expressionless face” fills the narrow opening. When Marlowe asks for Geiger, Brody says he doesn’t know the name.
Given Geiger’s books were moved to Brody’s apartment, the man is presumably lying to Marlowe. Given Geiger is dead and the books were stolen, Brody lies for good reason.
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Trying to talk his way in, Marlowe tells Brody he has Geiger’s notebook filled with clients’ names; because Brody has the books, they should work it out. Brody lets Marlowe in. The room is nicely though sparsely furnished. Marlowe sits down without invitation.
Marlowe appeals to Brody’s business sense to keep the conversation moving and to gain entry to the apartment. Self-interest appears to be universal among all the novel’s characters.
Themes
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Moving carefully, Brody sits opposite Marlowe and throws him a cigar from across the room. As Marlowe reaches to catch the airborne cigar, Brody pulls a gun out. Marlowe is unintimidated, and tells Brody he’s the second guy to pull a gun on the detective that day. Brody doesn’t know who Eddie Mars is.
While Marlowe has information useful to him, Brody does not trust Marlowe, gaining the upper hand as soon as possible. Yet Marlowe’s masculine composure remains. He has become used to facing down guns in this city.
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Brody half apologizes for the gun, saying he’s “not a tough guy—just careful.” Marlowe tells him the way he stole Geiger’s books was poorly done, “not careful enough.” The detective also advises the hidden figure who is concealed behind a curtain to come out.
Brody explains that the gun is for protection—he is not an aggressive man, it is simply about survival. Marlowe has mentioned dangerous names in his apartment, and Brody must take appropriate precautions. The hiding figure behind the curtain took their own precautions too, by hiding.
Themes
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Without looking away from Marlowe, Brody calls Agnes—the blonde from Geiger’s store—out from behind the curtain. She tells Marlowe she knew he was “trouble.” Agnes lights another lamp and Marlowe lights his cigar.
Chandler finally gives Agnes her name, who is no longer simply “the blonde,” though Marlowe’s narrative voice more frequently opts for this description rather than using her name. In wording similar to Marlowe’s assessment of Mrs. Regan, Agnes calls Marlowe “trouble.” Perhaps he could take it as a back-handed compliment, as it was intended for Mrs. Regan, given her sexuality prompted warning signals for Marlowe.
Themes
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Marlowe explains the list of clients in the notebook is coded; with hundreds of names, the racket must be profitable—enough to kill Geiger over. Agnes is “outraged,” or at least pretends to be. Brody tells her to shut up and denies he has anything to do with the racket. Agnes acts disgusted that Marlowe could suggest this pornography store operated right on the “main drag.” Marlowe says the police must find it convenient to it to operate there, where they can see it.
Agnes feigns outrage over Marlowe’s accusations that such an illegal and immoral store could operate in plain sight. But Brody sees that Marlowe will not fall for such a simple trick, and instead looks to distance himself from the store. Marlowe assessment of the profitable racket shows that Brody and Agnes are attempting to work their way up in the criminal world. His disdainful assessment also captures the police’s negligence. As the public body charged with enforcing the law, they have missed a fairly obvious target, apparently willfully.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Brody reminds Agnes to shut up and tells Marlowe to keep talking. The detective says that Brody shot Geiger to take over the store, took the camera plate with him when he left, and even went back to hide the body later so he’d have time to move the books.
Marlowe has already told Eddie Mars he doesn’t believe the book thief is necessarily the murderer, so Marlowe’s accusation here represents a cynical tactic. By over-accusing Brody, Marlowe hopes he will scare the grifter into confessing to his actual, lesser crimes.
Themes
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Still holding a gun, Brody denies the murder. Marlowe tells him it doesn’t matter; Brody had the motive and there is a witness who will say he did it. At that, Brody loses control and shouts, “That goddamned little hot pants!” Marlowe can see Brody has jumped to thinking of Carmen, so the detective responds that he knew Brody had the photos from that night.
Sticking to his line of questioning, Marlowe all but threatens Brody. Brody, panicking, angrily curses Carmen, which tells Marlowe Brody must know she was at Geiger’s the night of his murder, meaning he is involved somehow. This success marks the detective as a master interrogator.
Themes
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The room is silent for a while, and Marlowe leaves it that way. Brody begins to deny having the photos, but Marlowe says he must have known that Carmen was there, meaning Brody was also there, or at least got the camera’s plate holder afterward from someone. The detective then says that Agnes must have called Mrs. Regan to threaten the police angle. As such, Brody and Agnes both knew Carmen was at the house the night Geiger was killed, and what had happened.
Brody tries to cling onto a full denial but it is too late. Marlowe has won, and now has the upper hand despite having no gun. If Brody and Agnes have the photos, that also explains why Agnes panicked at the shop when Marlowe suggested he should go to Geiger’s house—she knows about the murder too. Just one piece of information helps Marlowe start to piece together the whole story, showing why the characters hold their secrets so close to their chest.
Themes
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Brody demands money for the naked photos of Carmen from the night Geiger was shot. Marlowe refuses. Brody asks how the detective found him and Agnes. The detective explains he was tailing Geiger for a client and heard the shots from the house. Interrupting, Brody points out that Marlowe hasn’t gone to the police, and asks how the detective knew about the books. Marlowe admits he tailed the books from Geiger’s store, which led him to Brody.
Marlowe now provides information in return, in part to intimidate Brody with how much he knows already, and in part to create an atmosphere in which Brody might spill more information. But the detective doesn’t give too much—he is still playing in his client’s interests and will not pay out yet if he can win for free.
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Marlowe asks Brody and Agnes if they’ve ever been to Geiger’s house, which they deny, insisting they weren’t there the previous night. Marlowe says he could talk Carmen out of her accusation that Brody is behind the murder if Brody were to give up the photos. Just as Brody is about to give up and hand over the photos, the door buzzer goes off.
Marlowe’s strategy has played out just as he hoped. He has leveraged Carmen’s accusation to obtain the pictures from Brody (nearly), not to mention gaining information from the grifter that might otherwise have been impossible to get.
Themes
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