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The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep

by Raymond Chandler

Wealth Theme

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 epitome of the wealth = power equation: their money comes from oil wells, and various members of the family succeed in using this wealth to buy what they want. But money also corrupts. And that's is why Marlowe not only despises the filthy rich, but also prefers being poor and underpaid if it means he doesn't have to compromise on his own morals.

Questions About Wealth

  1. To what extent does wealth equal power in The Big Sleep?
  2. Why is Marlowe so contemptuous of the wealthy? Why does he seem to equate poverty with honesty? Does that seem like a fair equation to you, based on the characters of the novel?
  3. Money seems to be behind the motives of nearly all the criminals in The Big Sleep, from Geiger to Brody to Mars. How is this symptomatic of the crumbling economy of Depression-era America? To what extent does the desire for money motivate the characters in the novel to do what they do?

Chew on This

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

It's all about the benjamins, baby. Money is the driving force behind the criminal activities throughout the novel, from the blackmailing schemes to the various murders.

Marlowe attempts to preserve his own integrity and honesty by living modestly, yet he still finds himself somewhat attracted to the life of the rich.

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