The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep Chapter 32 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Marlowe walks up to Mrs. Regan’s sitting room, led by the maid Mathilda. Mrs. Regan calls him a “brute” for killing Canino and terrifying Carmen into a fit. Marlowe asks how Carmen is doing, and Mrs. Regan replies that she is asleep.
Mrs. Regan’s worst fears about Marlowe seem confirmed, as she accuses him of being a killer and of intimidating her sister.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe tells Mrs. Regan he returned Carmen’s gun to her, and Mrs. Regan falls silent. He explains they went down to the old oil wells to practice shooting, and it was “pretty creepy” down there, so maybe that upset her.
Marlowe doesn’t tell the whole story at once, preferring to see how Mrs. Regan will react. Her sudden silence speaks volumes, as Marlowe can tell she has already assumed the rest of the story.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe then asks Mrs. Regan what Eddie Mars has on her, and Mrs. Regan responds that she’s “tired” of the question. Marlowe tells Mrs. Regan everything ties together: Eddie Mars was behind Geiger’s blackmail scheme, because he wanted to know if General Sternwood was hiding anything. If not, he would have to wait until Mrs. Regan got her inheritance.
The detective begins to offer up more details, to see which will get a rise out of Mrs. Regan. His story is building up to a crescendo, as he tells her everything she should already know, and he looks for signs of agreement in her body language.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Continuing in a long monologue, Marlowe explains Eddie knew where Rusty was and didn’t want the police to find out, which is why he hid Mona to create a useful diversion. Mrs. Regan says she’s bored.
Again, these are facts that Marlowe assumes Mrs. Regan will know. As such, telling her that he knows lays the foundation for the revelation he is about to make.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
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Marlowe tells Mrs. Regan that Carmen fired all five bullets in her gun at him, but he had swapped them for blanks. Mrs. Regan says he can’t prove it. Marlowe says he doesn’t care about this time—he’s thinking about the last time, when the gun wasn’t loaded with blanks.
Rather than denying Marlowe’s accusation or countering it with her own accusation he is lying, Mrs. Regan simply states that Marlowe cannot prove Carmen tried to shoot him, as she knows it is possible her sister committed such a terrible act. As such, her response lends credibility to Marlowe’s next accusation, that Carmen had already done something similar.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Instead, Marlowe is talking about when Rusty went missing. When Carmen shot him in anger too, anger for being turned down. Marlowe describes finding Carmen in his bed and kicking her out, and assumes the same happened with Regan.
Knowing Carmen as well as he does, Marlowe does not find it hard to jump to a likely conclusion in the missing Rusty case, stating that Carmen was the killer.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan tells Marlowe she assumes he wants money and offers him $15,000. He attempts “not to sneer.” He mocks her, saying that’s how much Eddie expects to collect someday. She swears at him, and he agrees sarcastically, he is “a son of a bitch” as she called him, because he charges his clients $25 a day and to tries to protect an old man’s pride.
Mrs. Regan confirms Marlowe’s suspicions as she offers him hush money. Thinking the detective must seek the same as everyone else in this corrupt city, offering him money is the obvious answer. Instead Marlowe reveals he has been driven by sympathy for an old man, as well as pride in his own work.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Unable to respond, Mrs. Regan remains silent. Marlowe tells her just to take Carmen away to an institution where she’ll be safe. Mrs. Regan confesses, to hiding Rusty’s body and to calling in Eddie to help her. She says she did it to hide it from General Sternwood. She doesn’t care if Eddie bleeds her white. Mostly, she drinks a lot to cope with the guilt.
With nothing left to hide now, Mrs. Regan finally tells Marlowe what Eddie Mars has been holding over her this whole time. While her methods are different, she has also been motivated by her desire to protect her father’s pride, although in her case it is her own shame that threatens the old man’s honor.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe repeats his order, to take Carmen away. Mrs. Regan agrees, asking what he will do, as Eddie will want to kill him. Marlowe isn’t scared—he already killed Eddie’s “best boy” (Canino). Marlowe leaves.
They both know that Eddie Mars will be after Marlowe, as they both know the racketeer too well to think he will let Marlowe walk away unchallenged. That is something Marlowe has already resigned himself to.
Themes
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Outside, driving away in his car, Marlowe thinks that it doesn’t matter where you end up after death—“you were sleeping the big sleep,” no longer involved in the “nastiness.” General Sternwood is far distant from the “nastiness,” alone in his bed. Once back in town, Marlowe hits a bar and drinks Scotch, thinking about Mona
Marlowe cannot keep himself out of the “nastiness” as General Sternwood can afford to. Rather, the detective has directly entered the “nastiness” in his service to the old man. But, Marlowe observes, these social distinctions do not matter after death, after which morality and money have no meaning anymore, despite all the efforts people make to hold onto one or the other while alive.
Themes
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
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