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
His eyes went narrow. The veneer had flaked off him, leaving a well-dressed hard boy with a Luger.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
She’s a grifter, shamus. I’m a grifter. We’re all grifters. So we sell each other out for a nickel.
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.
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.
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.