Good old-fashioned greed is the key motivating factor that drives the majority of the characters in The Maltese Falcon. And the object of everyone's greed is the elusive Maltese falcon. The characters are willing to go to great lengths to obtain this priceless black bird, even if it means leaving behind a few dead bodies along the way. Greed also appears in the form of monetary desires. Money can buy a lot of things in this novel, and the greedy pursuit of the falcon is presented as a ruthless pursuit for money, a chase that turns out to be both corrupting and pointless.
Questions About Greed
What are the different characters' motivations in relation to the falcon? Are Spade's motives nobler than the others'? Why or why not?
Near the end of the story, Spade says to Brigid, "Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be." What evidence is there that he's not motivated by the same greed as Gutman and the others?
What message might Hammett be trying to send about the relentless pursuit of wealth? What are the dangers and pitfalls of human greed?
Chew on This
If Brigid had offered Spade more money, he wouldn't have turned her over to the police.
The fact that the falcon turns out to be a fake underlines the pointless and corrupt nature of human greed.