Marlowe's Loyalty In The Big Sleep

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In Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, private detective Philip Marlowe is a driven and reliable detective, often going to great lengths to protect his clients. That Marlowe’s loyalty can be purchased for “twenty-dollars dollars a day and expenses”, raises the question of how Marlowe chooses who he is loyal towards (Chandler 113). Perhaps Marlowe believes that he possesses a good moral compass and is capable of judging whether or not a potential client is a good character. It is more likely, however, that Marlowe does not care about the details of loyalty, concerning himself solely with preserving loyalty. Marlowe’s reactions to the displays of loyalty that he witnesses suggests that he does not care who the two entities bound by loyalty are,…show more content…
Marlowe appears to believe that lying or withholding information is honorable when it is done as an act of loyalty. Marlowe involves himself in “nastiness” so that “the old man didn’t have to be” (Chandler 230). When Marlowe lays out the events surrounding Geiger’s death to Captain Cronjager and the District Attorney, he purposely refrains from telling them about “Carmen’s visit to Brody’s” (Chandler 108). He does not tell the police that Carmen Sternwood, armed with a gun, appeared at Joe Brody’s door, ready to murder him. It is likely that Marlowe refrains from implicating Carmen in order to spare General Sternwood’s feelings. Marlowe acknowledges his own deep-seated loyalty towards his clients, declaring that he uses “what little guts and intelligence the Lord gave [him] and a willingness to get pushed around in order to protect a client” (Chandler 114). However, there is one display of loyalty in the novel that Marlowe does not fully condone. After Carmen Sternwood murdered Rusty Regan, Vivian Regan covers up her sister’s crime in order to protect Carmen and prevent her father, General Sternwood from knowing what transpired. When Marlowe deduces this, he gives Vivian three days to leave and have Carmen institutionalized. Even though Marlowe is harsh to Vivian, does not immediately alert the police, showing that he is still trying to spare General Sternwood’s feelings. Perhaps Marlowe feels that this resolution is fair because Carmen gets the help that she needs, and General Sternwood does not learn how twisted his daughters are. Marlowe seems to believe that he is being loyal by protecting his client’s emotions, but at the same time he is preventing General Sternwood from knowing the truth about Rusty Regan’s disappearance. For Marlowe, loyalty seems to be a balance between protecting a client and actually doing his job by solving their
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