Study Guide

The Big Sleep Isolation

By Raymond Chandler


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, we can chalk up Marlowe's alone time to the fact that he's chosen a particularly solitary line of work, but we can't help but wonder if it isn't a symptom of Chandler's America as a whole. 1930s Los Angeles with its murderers and blackmailers is primarily a city of distrust where each person has to look out for his or her own selfish interests, before finally succumbing to The Big Sleep.

Questions About Isolation

  1. Why is Marlowe's life as a detective so isolated? Is this a reflection of society as a whole, where people feel alienated from everyone around them? Or is it just Marlowe's way?
  2. Marlowe doesn't seem to get along well with others. Is this by choice or necessity? Does he mistrust people because his job as a detective requires it, or has he become too hardened by all the corruption he sees?
  3. What does Marlowe do to cope with his sense of isolation? Plenty of women are attracted to him, yet he continually rejects them. Why might Marlowe prefer being alone?

Chew on This

Marlowe chose the loneliest job in the universe because he was a lonely guy to begin with.

Marlowe's solitary lifestyle is a way of distancing himself from the corruption he sees every day.