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The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep


by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep Theme of 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—all the bases are covered. In the end, we realize that violence is the inevitable result of the total moral depravity going on in society. These tough guys only have a few options when it comes to getting their way, and violence is often their method of choice.

Questions About Violence

  1. To what extent is the pervasive violence in The Big Sleep a commentary on the moral corruption of 1930s America?
  2. Marlowe occasionally has to slap around the female characters in The Big Sleep. Is the novel misogynistic in its treatment of violence toward women?
  3. In what ways is the theme of violence related to the issues of masculinity in the novel? Why do the men in The Big Sleep feel that violence is an appropriate means of asserting authority and masculinity?

Chew on This

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

Violence isn't only a man thing in The Big Sleep. Carmen has proven herself to be just as violent as all the tough guys.

Marlowe's use of violence during his own investigation shows that his high-minded principles are really just a bunch of codswallop. He's no different than the rest of the tough guys.

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