The Big Sleep

Money Symbol Icon

In author Raymond Chandler’s depiction of 1930s L.A., the characters’ obsession with money represents how society’s focus on personal gain causes social immobility and moral decay. Those who scramble to make a little money find themselves in danger, as those at the top of society will not make room for them. For example, “little man” Harry Jones ends up dead “like a poisoned rat,” for poking his nose into “manicured” Eddie Mars’s business, showing how wealthy racketeers keep the lower-class criminals in their place. Meanwhile, those same “well-dressed” elites can afford to buy the police’s loyalty and keep their names out of the newspapers, keeping their wealth and social status secure. Philip Marlowe—one of the few characters with a clear moral compass in the novel—scorns society’s obsession with money. When Mrs. Regan offers him money to keep quiet about her murdered husband, Marlowe replies ironically “Uh-huh … I haven’t a feeling or a scruple in the world. All I have the itch for is money.” Here Marlowe directly contrasts morality and money, suggesting the two are incompatible. Marlowe even suggests that it is because of his morals that he does not make much money. As such, the characters’ obsession with making money leaves no room for morality, leading to the city’s moral degradation.

Money Quotes in The Big Sleep

The The Big Sleep quotes below all refer to the symbol of Money. 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 13 Quotes

His eyes went narrow. The veneer had flaked off him, leaving a well-dressed hard boy with a Luger.

Related Characters: Philip Marlowe (speaker), Eddie Mars
Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
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I know you, Mr. Mars. The Cypress Club at Las Olindas. Flash gambling for flash people. The local law in your pocket and a wellgreased line into L.A. In other words, protection.

Related Characters: Philip Marlowe (speaker), Eddie Mars, Arthur Gwynn Geiger
Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 18 Quotes

Cops get very large and emphatic when an outsider tries to hide anything, but they do the same things themselves every other day, to oblige their friends or anybody with a little pull.

Related Characters: Philip Marlowe (speaker), Taggart Wilde
Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 20 Quotes

“General Sternwood’s a rich man,” I said. “He’s an old friend of the D.A.’s father. If he wants to hire a fulltime boy to run errands for him, that’s no reflection on the police. It’s just a luxury he is able to afford himself.”

Related Characters: Philip Marlowe (speaker), General Sternwood, Captain Al Gregory
Related Symbols: Knights, Money
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Carol Lundgren, the boy killer with the limited vocabulary, was out of circulation for a long, long time, even if they didn’t strap him in a chair over a bucket of acid. They wouldn’t, because he would take a plea and save the county money. They all do when they don't have the price of a big lawyer.

Related Characters: Philip Marlowe (speaker), Joe Brody, Carol Lundgren
Related Symbols: Cyanide, Money
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
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I wish old Sternwood would hire himself a soldier like you on a straight salary, to keep those girls of his home at least a few nights a week.

Related Symbols: Knights, Money
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 25 Quotes

She’s a grifter, shamus. I’m a grifter. We’re all grifters. So we sell each other out for a nickel.

Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 30 Quotes

Being a copper I like to see the law win. I'd like to see the flashy well-dressed mugs like Eddie Mars spoiling their manicures in the rock quarry at Folsom, alongside of the poor little slum-bred hard guys that got knocked over on their first caper and never had a break since. That’s what I’d like. You and me both lived too long to think I’m likely to see it happen. Not in this town, not in any town half this size, in any part of this wide, green and beautiful U.S.A. We just don’t run our country that way.

Related Characters: Captain Al Gregory (speaker), Philip Marlowe, Eddie Mars, Mona Mars
Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Me, I was part of the nastiness now … But the old man didn’t have to be. He could lie quiet in his canopied bed, with his bloodless hands folded on the sheet, waiting.

Related Characters: Philip Marlowe (speaker), General Sternwood
Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Money Symbol Timeline in The Big Sleep

The timeline below shows where the symbol Money 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
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...the General to pay off the blackmailer, as it is not a large amount of money, and will be an annoyance to deal with otherwise. From the way Geiger has delivered... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...outside the door, smoking and looking at the distant oilfields where the Sternwoods made their money. Most of the land has since been made public. But the working parts of the... (full context)
Chapter 11
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...the office is not showy, to which Marlowe responds that one does not make much money when staying within the limits of the law, and he is “painfully” so. (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 $5,000, today, or... (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 he stashed in his clothes at all times. He doesn’t need... (full context)
Chapter 14
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Brody demands money for the naked photos of Carmen from the night Geiger was shot. Marlowe refuses. Brody... (full context)
Chapter 21
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...he didn’t shoot Geiger, and will destroy the photos. Norris says he’s sending Marlowe a check for $500. (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...Mrs. Regan is in the casino right then, winning on roulette. The racketeer offers Marlowe money for keeping his name out of his statement to the police, which Mars knows about... (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...like Marlowe on salary to 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... (full context)
Chapter 22
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.... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
...to drive Mrs. Regan home, and she blushes. She demands to put all of her money, $16,000, on red, “the color of blood.” (full context)
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Everyone watches as the croupier counts the money and sets the ball rolling. Red wins. Mrs. Regan laughs. Mars smiles. The crowd breathes... (full context)
Chapter 25
Wealth, Status, and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
In his office, Marlowe finds his check from General Sternwood. The small man enters Marlowe’s office, and introduces himself as Harry Jones.... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...Brody, who then tailed Canino and saw Mrs. Regan pass Canino something that looked like money. (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...that Agnes had seen Mona herself, and will tell Marlowe where when she has the money, after all she’s a grifter too. Marlowe likes Jones’ manner, and agrees to the deal,... (full context)
The Corruption of Society Theme Icon
Jones tells Marlowe to come to his apartment that evening with the money. Jones leaves, and Marlowe goes to the bank to cash his check. Marlowe then sits... (full context)
Chapter 26
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...when Canino started looking for him, though Agnes doesn’t believe Marlowe. Nevertheless, she wants the money and arranges to meet with him. (full context)
Chapter 27
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Agnes is in the gray Plymouth, demanding the money from Marlowe with an outstretched hand. She asks what happened to Jones. Marlowe repeats the... (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
Marlowe gives Agnes the money. Agnes says to wish her luck, as she’s had a hard time, but Marlowe sneers.... (full context)
Chapter 30
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...wanted the detective to find Rusty. The General says he feels betrayed. Marlowe offers his money back, for an “unsatisfactory job.” (full context)
Cynicism and Survival Theme Icon
...can find Rusty, and just to make sure Rusty is okay, or if he needs money. Marlowe says he’ll try. The General is exhausted, and Marlowe leaves to let him rest.  (full context)
Chapter 32
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 sneer.” He mocks her, saying that’s how... (full context)