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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Isolation

As a private detective (emphasis on the word "private"), Marlowe leads a very lonely life. He keeps his own company and can usually be found whiling away the hours at the bottom of a bottle. Sure,...

Morality and Ethics

With corrupt criminals running rampant in the streets of Los Angeles, Marlowe faces a daunting task to preserve his own sense of morality. Nearly every one he meets seems to have some secret to hi...

Justice and Judgment

According to Marlowe, there is a huge difference between law and justice. As someone with a strong personal conscience, Marlowe feels that the law often is just not up to snuff when it comes to bri...

Principles

Despite being a hardboiled tough guy, Marlowe has his own set of principles that he sticks to firmly. Marlowe sees himself as a modern-day knight, following a code of chivalry in a fallen society t...

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. Th...

Wealth

Money talks in The Big Sleep. Well, not literally. But if you have a lot of money in this novel that pretty much guarantees you all the power and influence you want. The Sternwood family is the epi...

Violence

A detective story without a dash of violence for flavor would be pretty bland, and The Big Sleep is definitely not lacking in the spicy action department. Fistfights, shootouts, bloody corpses—al...

Sexuality and Sexual Identity

Sexuality is a weapon in The Big Sleep. From Vivian's femme fatalish ways to Carmen's aggressive sexual advances, it's clear that women here are using their sexuality to achieve their goals—howev...
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