The Big Sleep

Terrence “Rusty” Regan Character Analysis

Although Rusty Regan does not appear in person in The Big Sleep, his presence, or lack thereof, hangs over the text, as he has been missing since before the narrative picks up. Rusty married Mrs. Regan, the eldest daughter of General Sternwood. The son and father-in-law got along well, and the General was personally hurt when Rusty left without saying goodbye. When Sternwood hires private detective Philip Marlowe to investigate why Arthur Gwynn Geiger is blackmailing him, everyone else assumes Marlowe is looking into Rusty’s disappearance. At the end of the novel, Marlowe discovers that the General’s daughter, Carmen, killed Rusty in a fit of rage. To protect her sister, Mrs. Regan called in local racketeer Eddie Mars to help her cover up Rusty’s murder. Mars devises a ruse, hiding Rusty’s car at his wife Mona’s apartment complex, to make it seem the two ran away together. Mona goes into hiding to keep up appearances.

Terrence “Rusty” Regan Quotes in The Big Sleep

The The Big Sleep quotes below are all either spoken by Terrence “Rusty” Regan or refer to Terrence “Rusty” Regan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Big Sleep published in 1939.
Chapter 20 Quotes

He’s got friends in town, or he wouldn’t be what he is.

Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Big Sleep quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 21 Quotes

Eddie Mars would have been very unlikely to involve himself in a double murder just because another man had gone to town with the blonde he was not even living with … If there had been a lot of money involved, that would be different. But fifteen grand wouldn't be a lot of money to Eddie Mars. He was no two-bit chiseler like Brody.

Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 32 Quotes

What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that.

Related Characters: Philip Marlowe (speaker), Terrence “Rusty” Regan
Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire The Big Sleep LitChart as a printable PDF.
The big sleep.pdf.medium

Terrence “Rusty” Regan Character Timeline in The Big Sleep

The timeline below shows where the character Terrence “Rusty” Regan appears in The Big Sleep. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...two “wild” daughters, the eldest of whom, Vivian, is currently married to an “ex-bootlegger” called Rusty Regan. The General admits to being friendly with Rusty, who used to sit with the... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mr. Norris informs Marlowe that Mrs. Vivian Regan wishes to meet him. Marlowe dislikes that the butler has interfered, but Norris responds that... (full context)
Chapter 3
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Stepping into Mrs. Regan’s vast upper sitting room, decorated in white and ivory, Marlowe can see the storm approaching... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan asks Marlowe’s opinion of her father, General Sternwood. Marlowe responds politely but she pushes further,... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan sounds a bell to call a maid in to replenish her drink. After the maid... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan realizes she’s made a mistake, and that Marlowe is not looking for Rusty. She tells... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...nearby hills as Marlowe walks through the grounds toward his car. Marlowe thinks about Mrs. Regan’s legs, and how she and the General have more to them than meets the eye.... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
...body inside it. The cop cannot confirm that the body isn’t that of the missing Rusty Regan, and offers to drive Marlowe down to the scene. (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...meets Ohls at the Hall of Justice, where the policeman confirms the body is not Regan—it’s a lad, rather than a man of Rusty’s size. Ohls asks Marlowe if he’s working... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
The story goes, Carmen and Owen ran off to Yuma, but Mrs. Regan went and fetched them back. Mrs. Regan had Owen thrown in jail, later had him... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
...old man out of it.” Ohls thinks Marlowe is sympathetic that General Sternwood is missing Regan, but Marlowe responds that he doesn’t care about that case. Ohls drops Marlowe in town... (full context)
Chapter 11
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Wearing a “mannish shirt and tie,” Mrs. Regan turns her nose up at the furniture in Marlowe’s waiting room. She makes a half-hearted... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan comments that the office is not showy, to which Marlowe responds that one does not... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Lighting a cigarette, Mrs. Regan asks how Marlowe got into the business of being a private detective. He asks her... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan tells Marlowe she has been trying to track him down all day. When he asks... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
However, Mrs. Regan explains that she didn’t come to talk about Owen. She passes Marlowe an envelope, out... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe asks Mrs. Regan how much money “they” have asked for. She explains that a woman called her demanding... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Responding to Marlowe’s questions, Mrs. Regan explains Carmen was home ill last night, while she was losing at roulette at Eddie... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Marlowe asks Mrs. Regan why Owen had the car, but she doesn’t know the answer—he wasn’t given permission. He... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan suggests telling the police about the blackmailers, but Marlowe says he knows she doesn’t consider... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Smiling, Mrs. Regan says Eddie ought to help her out as Mars’s wife ran away with her husband... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan tells Marlowe that Rusty is not “a crook.” He has money of his own, which... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
As Marlowe sees Mrs. Regan to the door, she asks again what the General has hired Marlowe for. She flirts... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...the previous night. Most of the family were at home, Ohls says, apart from Mrs. Regan who was out at a casino. Marlowe tells Ohls he should do something about the... (full context)
Chapter 12
Cynicism and Survival 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... (full context)
Chapter 14
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 16
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Back to questioning Brody, Marlowe asks why he blackmailed Mrs. Regan rather than her father. Brody says he’d already “tapped” General Sternwood before and thought he... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...night, and saw a Buick parked there. He checked and it was registered to Mrs. Regan. (full context)
Chapter 18
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...has often done much to help the “old man,” but his daughters (Carmen and Mrs. Regan) are wild and it’s their father’s fault. Wilde adds the General is likely worried his... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Marlowe explains that the General had bonded with Rusty and simply wishes to know he is well. That changes Wilde’s demeanor. Wilde hands the... (full context)
Chapter 19
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mars asks Marlowe if the private detective is looking for the missing Rusty Regan. Frustrated, Marlowe says he’s not, but Mars invites Marlowe to his casino to talk... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...the Sternwood house and gets through to Mr. Norris. He leaves a message for Mrs. Regan that he has all of Carmen’s nude photos. The butler sounds relieved. (full context)
Chapter 20
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Looking back at Marlowe, Gregory asks if he’s after information on Rusty Regan. Marlowe replies “sure.” Gregory thinks General Sternwood should let the matter rest rather than... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Gregory tells Marlowe that Rusty is missing and won’t be found. The Captain then asks an assistant to get Rusty’s... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
The Captain explains that Rusty was rich in his own right and didn’t need money from the Sternwoods. Rusty was... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...Eddie Mars’s wife, but the police don’t have one. Gregory offers Marlowe a picture of Rusty instead. Gregory explains they questioned Eddie Mars at the time of their disappearance and don’t... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Gregory’s theory is Mars’s wife and Regan ran off together, as they never found her car. As such, he says the best... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...and asks if he really thinks Eddie Mars killed both his own wife (Mona) and Rusty. Marlowe agrees with Gregory that the two missing people likely ran away together. (full context)
Chapter 21
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe makes the drink he’d promised himself. He thinks about Rusty, leaving his rich and good-looking wife for someone else’s. The police were clueless, and General... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Marlowe thinks to himself that Mrs. Regan and Eddie have a good relationship, not just because she spends money at his casino,... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe admits to coming to the casino during Prohibition. Mars tells the detective that Mrs. Regan is in the casino right then, winning on roulette. The racketeer offers Marlowe money for... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...detective got information from the Missing Persons Bureau already. Marlowe asks Mars if he killed Rusty Regan, at which Mars laughs, denying it. Marlowe laughs too, saying he knows Mars doesn’t... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Sipping his drink, Mars asks Marlowe if he’s looking for Rusty Regan. Marlowe responds noncommittally, adding that General Sternwood would like to know where Rusty is,... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe explains he wants to rule Rusty Regan out of the blackmail story. Mars tells the detective that Geiger tried the blackmail... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...control his girls. He explains that on balance he loses money to someone like Mrs. Regan because of the way she gambles so much, without much personal income. (full context)
Chapter 22
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
...a Mexican band is taking a break amid the traditional interior decoration. Marlowe spots Mrs. Regan across the room as he leans on the bar. The bartender watches her too, telling... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Two other men come to the bar, exclaiming about Mrs. Regan’s incredible run at the roulette table. The man running the roulette table tells Mrs. Regan... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Money is strewn across the table in front of Mrs. Regan, who looks paler than usual. She is angry that the table doesn’t have the money... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Mars suggests arranging for someone to drive Mrs. Regan home, and she blushes. She demands to put all of her money, $16,000, on red,... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...watches as the croupier counts the money and sets the ball rolling. Red wins. Mrs. Regan laughs. Mars smiles. The crowd breathes and leaves. (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe leaves before Mrs. Regan, and takes a walk outside, toward a cliff over the sea. As he passes through... (full context)
Chapter 23
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...up the bag and returns it to the woman, who it turns out is Mrs. Regan. She quips that the detective is now her bodyguard. Mrs. Regan asks why he is... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan and Marlowe walk to the garage, where Mrs. Regan’s escort Larry Cobb is drunk and... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Marlowe leads Mrs. Regan to his car. He drives toward home, and after a while stops at a drugstore... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
While he pours the whiskey, Marlowe tells Mrs. Regan that Mars’s casino was guarded by police during Prohibition. He asks her what Eddie Mars... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan tells Marlowe that she worries about her sister Carmen all the time, and often keeps... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan accuses Marlowe of being “a killer.” He explains he didn’t kill Geiger or Brody, though... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe pays and he and Mrs. Regan get back in the car. They drive along a coast road. After a while Mrs.... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan asks Marlowe to drive to his apartment. He again asks her what Eddie Mars is... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe and Mrs. Regan are silent the whole drive back to the Sternwood mansion. After dropping off Mrs. Regan,... (full context)
Chapter 25
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Marlowe asks what the information is about, and Jones said it would help find Rusty Regan. Jones says Mars killed Regan, but Marlowe doesn’t believe him. Jones says Regan was... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Jones tells Marlowe he noticed Rusty wasn’t around, and then noticed that Mars’s tough guy Lash Canino, who usually keeps his... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...Mona Mars is now. That gets Marlowe’s attention. Jones says Mona never ran off with Rusty, but is “being kept” just outside the city. He explains that Agnes had seen Mona... (full context)
Chapter 28
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Marlowe takes in the room as he tells Mona that Eddie killed Rusty. She asserts that Eddie isn’t like that. Marlowe accuses her of liking racketeers. She tries... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...to show Eddie she was serious about hiding out so people wouldn’t think he’d killed Rusty. (full context)
Chapter 30
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Gregory continues that he doesn’t think Eddie killed Regan, and that Regan will likely appear sometime soon. The Captain explains that Eddie confessed to... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...up to leave, and Gregory asks the detective if he still thinks he can find Regan. Marlowe says he’s not even going to try, and leaves. (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...resting in bed at midday. The general tells Marlowe he was not hired to find Rusty. Marlowe tells the old man he had wanted the detective to find Rusty. The General... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...went to see Captain Gregory. Marlowe tells Sternwood he thought the old man was afraid Rusty was involved in Geiger’s blackmail scheme somehow. Marlowe explains Gregory knows a lot more than... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...to find out if Sternwood was hiding anything, that is, if he knew something about Rusty. (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...tells Marlowe to see the job through, offering the detective $1,000 if he can find Rusty, and just to make sure Rusty is okay, or if he needs money. Marlowe says... (full context)
Chapter 32
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe walks up to Mrs. Regan’s sitting room, led by the maid Mathilda. Mrs. Regan calls him a “brute” for killing... (full context)
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... (full context)
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... (full context)
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... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe tells Mrs. Regan that Carmen fired all five bullets in her gun at him, but he had swapped... (full context)
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... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Mrs. Regan tells Marlowe she assumes he wants money and offers him $15,000. He attempts “not to... (full context)
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... (full context)
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... (full context)