The Big Sleep
Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Vivian is spoiled, exacting, smart and quite ruthless. Carmen is a child who likes to pull wings off flies. Neither of them has any more moral sense than a cat. Neither have I. No Sternwood ever has." (2.50)
These words are spoken by General Sternwood during his first conversation with Marlowe. From the first pages of the novel, we already get the sense that the Sternwood family is corrupt, and as Marlowe digs deeper into the family history, he only finds more evidence to confirm the Sternwoods' lack of morals.
"The gun might have been planted—say by Brody, the actual killer."
"It's physically possible," I said, "but morally impossible. It assumes too much coincidence and too much that's out of character for Brody and his girl […]. He was a crook, but not a killer type." (18.45-46)
Here we get a glimpse into Marlowe's method of deduction. He's able to eliminate certain scenarios by drawing on what is morally and immorally possible in a given situation. Marlowe's strong sense of ethics allows him to make judgments on the extent to which those around him adhere to or depart from moral behavior.
"What's a loogan?"
"A guy with a gun."
"Are you a loogan?"
"Sure," I laughed. "But strictly speaking a loogan is on the wrong side of the fence."
"I often wonder if there is a wrong side." (23.72-76)
This conversation between Vivian and Marlowe is a witty play on words. Technically speaking, loogan is a slang word for a hooligan, hoodlum, or petty gangster. But here Marlowe defines a loogan more specifically as a "guy with a gun," and then quickly qualifies his answer by saying a loogan is on the "wrong side." But what exactly does it mean to be on the wrong side? As Vivian remarks, it's often very difficult in this novel to figure out where exactly to draw the line between right and wrong.