The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Spade arrives at Miss Wonderly’s hotel room, she soon reveals she has no sister and that her entire story was a lie. Spade responds that he took the case because she paid him, not because he believed her story. After she confesses that her real name is Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Spade tells her he will help protect her identity from the police as long as she provides him with information about the murders.
Brigid is a fantastic actor. Remember back when she blushed even at the mention of her sister’s scandalous pregnancy in Chapter 1? That sister didn’t even exist. Although Wonderly tells Spade her “real” name is Brigid, Spade has no reason to trust anything she says. As of now, it appears as if Spade will only continue helping her so that he can get paid and/or find Archer’s murderer.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
Masculinity, Femininity, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Instead of telling him the info, Brigid gets on her knees and pleads for help. Spade comments she’s trying to deceive him with a prepared speech that makes her look helpless. She responds by apologizing for the lies she told about her fake sister, which she acknowledges have made him unable to trust anything she says.
Getting on her knees, Brigid takes the pose of someone asking for mercy as well as someone trying to be seductive. Spade realizes that she’s a good liar and knows that the best way to seduce men is with sexual allure and by making them feel like the only ones powerful enough to help her.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions Theme Icon
Masculinity, Femininity, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Trying to win his trust, she claims to tell him the truth about her relationship to Thursby. In purposely vague language, she says that she met Thursby in Hong Kong where he promised to help her, but that he only took advantage of her desperateness. She tells Spade that Thursby must have been the one who killed Archer but she claims not to know who killed Thursby. When he presses her on why she hired Thursby, she refuses to answer and Spade threatens to give the police her identity. Forlorn, she thanks Spade and tells him she’ll take her chances with the police. Either believing her desperation or realizing she called his bluff about going to the police, he asks for another payment of four hundred-dollars and tells her he will do his best to help her.
Here a master liar, Brigid, and a master skeptic who trusts no one, Spade, face off. She lies, he sees through her lies, she covers with different lies. Whatever his reasons are for not turning her in (either he doesn’t want the police involved because he believes they are incompetent or he actually trusts that she needs his help), Spade hides his more ambiguous motives behind his very actual desire to make some money.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
Masculinity, Femininity, and Sexuality Theme Icon
When Spade returns to the office, Effie warns him that if he takes advantage of Brigid, she will lose all respect for him. Their conversation is interrupted by a stranger at the door who introduces himself as Joel Cairo. The narration describes Cairo as slender, dark skinned, wearing a lot of jewelry, and heavily perfumed.
Effie plays the role Spade’s conscience by telling Spade that he must help Brigid. Although Effie cares for Spade, she does not trust him to make the right ethical decision. In contrast to Spade’s overt masculinity, Cairo, with his perfume and jewelry, is described as effeminate.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions Theme Icon
Authority, Justice, and a Code of Ethics Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon
Masculinity, Femininity, and Sexuality Theme Icon
Get the entire The Maltese Falcon LitChart as a printable PDF.
The maltese falcon.pdf.medium
Cairo says he’s working for a man who is willing to pay Spade $5,000 if he locates and retrieves a statue of a black bird. Effie briefly interrupts their conversation to tell Spade she is leaving for the night. After she locks the office door behind her on her way out, Cairo produces a small black gun and tells Spade to clasp his hands behind his neck.
The chapter ends on a cliffhanger, heightening the suspense and the mystery surrounding Cairo. This is also the first mention of what will become known as the Maltese Falcon.
Themes
Lies and Deceptions Theme Icon
Greed Theme Icon