Study Guide

The Maltese Falcon Violence

By Dashiell Hammett

Violence

Violence in The Maltese Falcon is closely tied to a large number of other themes that appear in the novel. First, violence is linked to theme of men and masculinity because violence serves as a way of asserting dominance, power, and masculinity. Violence is also related to the theme of lies and deception because many of the characters use violence in an attempt to find out the truth. And we can't talk about violence without talking about death. The threat of death is constant in The Maltese Falcon, and as we know from the Flitcraft story, death occurs without rhyme or reason.

Questions About Violence

  1. Is the pervasive violence in The Maltese Falcon a commentary on the moral corruption of 1940s American society?
  2. Sam Spade frequently has to resort to violence either to protect himself from harm or to get what he needs. In what ways is the theme of violence related to the issues of masculinity in the novel?
  3. Why do the men in The Maltese Falcon feel that violence is an appropriate means of asserting authority and masculinity?

Chew on This

Sam Spade is forced to use violence in order to maintain the upper hand against the other characters in the novel

Violence is ultimately an ineffective way of dealing with criminals, and only breeds more crime and more violence.

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