The Big Sleep


Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

At a phone booth, Marlowe looks up Geiger’s home address, as well as a couple legitimate rare bookstores. Going into a useful looking nearby bookstore, Marlowe talks to an assistant in the back about Geiger, asking for a description. She considers Marlowe, then describes Geiger as overweight with an unusual moustache and a glass eye.
The bookstore clerk casts a suspicious eye over Marlowe, but ultimately chooses to trust him. This illustrates the cynical climate in the city, as everyone’s natural response toward everyone else is hesitant caution. Yet Marlowe presents a trustworthy figure because he talks plainly and honestly with the clerk—his decent dealing with her overcomes her cynicism.
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It begins to rain as Marlowe runs back over to his car, opposite Geiger’s store. Marlowe opens the parcel he took from the customer earlier—it is a rented pornography book of “indescribable filth.” Marlowe deduces that, because the store can operate in the open, Geiger must have “plenty of protection.” Marlowe lights a cigarette and thinks it all over.
As expected, Geiger’s store is a front—for illegal pornography rentals. Marlowe’s disgusted response reveals his own code of ethics, one that remains on the right side of the law and common decency in 1930s L.A.
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