From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep


by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep Theme of Men and Masculinity

Most of the male characters in The Big Sleep like to think of themselves as macho. There are constant fistfights, arguments, and shootouts that arise out of this sense of challenged masculinity. They talk tough, hit hard, and never apologize. If we're to take Chandler's view, that's pretty much a requirement for surviving in 1930s L.A. The streets are mean, so the men must be meaner.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. What characteristics make Marlowe a tough guy? What characteristics make him a sentimental romantic (non-tough-guy)?
  2. In what way has the post-WWI, Depression-era world of Los Angeles shaped the masculinity of the men in The Big Sleep?
  3. In what ways do the male characters assert their authority? Are they trying to hide their insecurities or is their male aggression a symptom of the corruption in 1930s society?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The men in The Big Sleep are forced to talk tough and act tough because it's the only way to survive in the gritty streets of L.A.

Marlowe's tough guy exterior hides an inner romanticism that he hides from the rest of the world.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...