The Big Sleep


Raymond Chandler

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The Big Sleep: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Marlowe arrives at the Sternwood mansion and leaves the unconscious Carmen in the capable hands of Mr. Norris and the maid Mathilda. The detective turns down Norris’s offer of calling a cab, instead walking back to Geiger’s house in the pouring rain. Cab drivers have long memories, Marlowe thinks to himself as he walks.
Marlowe opts not to take a cab as he doesn’t want to be linked to the murder at Geiger’s house—a cab driver would remember and later report him when the police eventually investigate the murder. The continuing storm suggests the mysteries of the night are not yet over.
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After half an hour of walking, Marlowe arrives at Geiger’s house, which remains quiet. He takes a swig of the alcohol in his car and smokes half a cigarette before going back into the house. Geiger’s body is no longer there, however; Marlowe searches the rest of the house, yet cannot locate the body. He opens the door to a room that was previously locked and observes that it’s decorated in masculine style that contrasts with Geiger’s more effeminate tastes.
Marlowe again finds himself playing catch up as another unexpected twist sees Geiger’s body disappear. Marlowe’s sees Geiger’s effeminate aesthetic as indication of his questionable morals, as emphasized by the contrast with this masculine room he has discovered. As such, Marlowe sees manliness as something linked to cultural propriety.
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Squatting to the floor, Marlowe thinks he can spy two lines on the rug, as though Geiger’s two heels had been dragged toward the front door as someone hauled his body out. The detective rules out the police, as they would still be at the scene. He also rules out the killer, who would likely not have returned to the house.
The mystery deepens as another figure has entered the story off-screen. As the police are not present, this person who has moved Geiger’s body cannot be on the right side of the law, and must have their own secrets to hide. The rising complexity of the case suggests immorality runs deep in this city.
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Marlowe decides the turn of events—the body going missing and the police being unaware of the crime at all—works for him in the meantime, as he figures out how to distance his client from this mess.
Marlowe’s decision not to call the police provides the first example of how the detective bends morality to suit his client’s interests. The move is a cynical one, as Marlowe seeks to get the best of the situation for himself, rather than doing the obviously “right” thing. It also suggests, however, that he believes the police to be incompetent and perhaps untrustworthy.
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Marlowe returns home to drink a “hot toddy” and try to work out the coded notebook’s message. He figures out the notebook includes 400 names and addresses, any of which could be the murderer. This, he thinks, will be a tough case.
The original mission General Sternwood gave Marlowe is now concluded. Geiger can no longer blackmail Sternwood, so Marlowe’s primary goal has been met. However, the detective cannot let this mystery go, showing his respect for truth amid the dishonesty and chaos of the city’s criminal underworld.
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