Study Guide

The Big Sleep Men and Masculinity

By Raymond Chandler

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. They talk tough, hit hard, and never apologize. If we're to take Chandler's view, that's pretty much a requirement for surviving in 1930s L.A. The streets are mean, so the men must be meaner.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. What characteristics make Marlowe a tough guy? What characteristics make him a sentimental romantic (non-tough-guy)?
  2. In what way has the post-WWI, Depression-era world of Los Angeles shaped the masculinity of the men in The Big Sleep?
  3. In what ways do the male characters assert their authority? Are they trying to hide their insecurities or is their male aggression a symptom of the corruption in 1930s society?

Chew on This

The men in The Big Sleep are forced to talk tough and act tough because it's the only way to survive in the gritty streets of L.A.

Marlowe's tough guy exterior hides an inner romanticism that he hides from the rest of the world.