Character Analysis: The Big Sleep

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In the novel The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler, there are many conflicts between two characters that are subtle and do not feel like conflicts, but it is evident they are through his use of similes and metaphors. The scene when Carmen sneaks into Marlow’s apartment and waits for him naked is one of the better examples of these scenes when a subtext battle exists. Chandler first sets up the idea that Marlow is meant to be the knight in shining armor by echoing the earlier scene when Marlow first steps into General Sternwood’s home. The scene Marlow walks into when he enters his home is Carmen lying under his covers, her “tawny wave of hair…spread out on the pillow as if by a careful and artificial hand” (Chandler, 154). This description…show more content…
That damsel “didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair” (Chandler, 3). Chandler is deliberately making a parallel between these two, making Carmen a rather ironic damsel in distress. It is ironic because she is in no danger, she herself chose to be nude and in Marlow’s bed. It is then that Chandler sets up the parallel between Marlow and the knight. Marlow sees there “was a problem laid out on the board” on his chessboard and he “reached down and moved a knight” (Chandler, 154). Immediately, Marlow’s contact with the knight piece shows that he is a knight in this situation. His inaction also ties him back with the knight in the stained glass window, who was “not getting anywhere” with helping the damsel (Chandler, 3). When he rejects Carmen, he tells her the reason is that it is a “question of professional pride” (Chandler, 156). He then repeats this, saying: “you know…professional pride” (Chandler, 156). Chandler chooses this repetition to enforce the symbolism of this…show more content…
The metaphors, on one level, are made to show the difference between what Carmen pretends to be and what she really is. When she is trying to seduce Marlow, she does everything “kittenishly”, making her feel like an adorable and innocent animal. When Marlow rejects her, her act splits open and she turns into a wild animal. She lets out a “faint hissing noise” and whenever she makes noise, all Marlow can think of is “rats behind a wainscoting in an old house” (Chandler, 157 and 154). The imagery that Chandler uses with her is that of a dark, wild and disgusting animal. Chandler makes her character feel very gray and unlikable. While these similes do show the contrast between her two emotions with Marlow in this scene, it also tells of a deeper meaning to what Chandler feels about Romanticism. While Carmen is the damsel in distress (by association of imagery and parallel structure), the imagery Chandler creates is that of the beast. Essentially, Chandler makes Carmen out to be the beast that the knight would have to slay in order to save the damsel in distress. When describing what Carmen did to Marlow in the scene, Chandler says she left and “imprint…of her small corrupt body” on Marlow’s sheets (Chandler, 159). Chandler’s simple use of just one little word, corrupt, illustrates his point that while she may be the damsel, there is something darker to her innocence. Chandler
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