Study Guide

The Big Sleep Chapter 31

By Raymond Chandler

Chapter 31

  • Marlowe's leaving the Sternwood house when he sees Carmen. He returns her gun to her, and Carmen flirtatiously asks him to teach her how to shoot.
  • Marlowe asks to hold onto the gun until they reach the location where they can practice shooting.
  • Following Carmen's directions, Marlowe drives them to an empty foothill ranch full of rusty oil pumps. The place feels lonely and eerie, like an old graveyard.
  • Marlowe hands the gun to Carmen and sets up tin cans to use as target practice.Ā 
  • When he turns around, Carmen has the gun pointed directly at his chest and begins hissing. She pulls the trigger. Collective gasp!
  • A shot is fired, but Marlowe is unharmed. Carmen fires several more times from a distance of about six feet, but Marlowe's still unhurt. Ah, he loaded the gun with blanks, the clever guy.
  • Carmen begins to have an epileptic fit, froth appearing at the corners of her mouth. Marlowe catches her just as she's about to faint. She's already unconscious by the time Marlowe lifts her up.