Brigid O'Shaughnessy from The Maltese Falcon | CharacTour
Sam Spade is a Hammett surrogate, reflecting and speaking for the author so it chronicles the relationship between these two remarkable writers, when they were The scene in which Spade calls Brigid O'Shaughnessy a liar ends with his .. The response came in the form of fine advice for any writer. Chapter Three of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is titled, appropriately (soon to be revealed as Brigid O'Shaughnessy)–reveal much about his . scene hints at his distaste at the relationship between Gutman and Wilmer, . the horror! therapy thursdays, they made movies after ? top ten list. Source for information on The Maltese Falcon: Novels for Students dictionary. Alone with Brigid O'Shaughnessy, Spade lies and says the apartment is still being . to his lawyer for advice, giving him the chance to find out, through the lawyer, once have had a romantic relationship, but Wilmer shouts obscenities at him.
He is a veteran detective, telling a story at one point about a case he handled several years earlier when he was with a large agency in Seattle. He is defiant toward the law, but careful about just how defiant he can be without endangering his practice, consulting with his lawyer when necessary to make sure that he is not putting himself in legal jeopardy. And he gives clients and potential clients the impression that he is willing to break the law if he has to in order to attain the results they need.
As Spade points out late in the book, he finds it good for his reputation as a detective to project this impression of corruptibility. Spade is cynical in his relations with women. Before the start of the novel, he has been having an affair with Iva Archer, the wife of his partner. When she finds herself free to marry him after Miles Archer's death, Spade makes it clear that he was just toying with her. He is in fact sick of Iva and angry when she manages to catch him alone.
He never fully trusts Brigid O'Shaughnessy, forcing her to submit to a strip search in order to see if she has stolen some of the reward he has received for the Maltese falcon. Still, in spite of taking precautions against her possible betrayal, there are clear indications that he is in love with her. The force that drives Sam Spade is a moral code that is more important than financial gain, power, or love.
He has a sense of what is right and what is wrong, regardless of his personal feelings. He does, however, try to hide the fact that he is acting morally, preferring to explain away his actions as good business moves. Turning in Gutman and his crew, for instance, entails giving up the ten thousand dollars that they gave him, but he says that there is no other way to escape culpability in the crimes that they committed.
In the end, though, after examining all of the reasons why it is right to send Brigid to jail, he cannot overcome his love for her without pointing out the bedrock moral rule that a man cannot let the murder of his partner go unpunished, even if it was a partner whom he detested.
Floyd Thursby Thursby never appears in the novel. He is a hoodlum from St. In San Franciscoshe hired Spade and Archer to follow him, assuming that Thursby would either be killed or scared away. He was killed by Wilmer to scare Brigid into giving up the falcon. Several times, Spade consults with him about whether actions he is considering are legal or could be prosecuted. Spade sends Iva Archer to Wise after she has given the police false information, saying that Wise will protect her legally.
Later, Spade has Wise tell him what Iva has said. Miss Wonderly Themes Code of Honor Throughout most of this novel, the protagonist, Sam Spade, seems to be too cynical to hold any deeply held convictions. His love life is defined early on by his affair with Iva Archer, the wife of his business partner, whom he openly detests.
Financially, he seems perfectly willing to sell his services to whoever offers him the most money, at one point taking on both Joel Cairo and Brigid O'Shaughnessy as clients, even though their interests clearly conflict.
His encounters with the police and the district attorney imply that Spade is more interested in making sure that his business is not disturbed by the events surrounding Miles Archer's death than he is in seeing justice prevail. And so it is a surprise when, at the end of the novel, Spade's behavior turns out to be directed by a code of honor that he understands clearly and respects.
The Maltese Falcon
He seems frustrated and a little embarrassed when trying to explain to Brigid O'Shaughnessy why he cannot take the corrupt and easy solution, which would entail accepting the money that he has been given by the criminals and going on to live his life with the woman he loves. Most of his reasons for turning away from the easy solution are based in logic—the police would find out about his involvement in the affair anyway, and he would never be able to fully trust Brigid, no matter how much he might or might not love her.
In the end, Spade's decision to turn Brigid in to the police comes down to one basic rule that he cannot bring himself to break: It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it. Single-Mindedness Most of the characters in this novel are motivated by the dual interests of greed and self-preservation.
Joel Cairo, Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and even Sam Spade himself are intrigued with the untold wealth that is promised to come with the retrieval of the Maltese falcon, so long as the wealth will not come with the price of death or imprisonment. For Casper Gutman, though, the search for the falcon is so personal that it has become his identity. Having devoted the past seventeen years of his life traveling the globe and spending untold money on his quest, Gutman can imagine no other existence.
For a moment, on finding that the falcon brought to San Francisco is just a leaden replica, Gutman allows despair to take over his usually cheerful optimism, but almost immediately he gathers his wits about himself and is ready to start off in search of the bird once again.
Although the novel gives little background about Gutman, Hammett makes it clear that his obsession with the falcon is the most important thing in his life by showing how callously he treats his family and surrogate family. He only seems aware of the existence of his daughter, Rhea, when he is able to use her to distract Spade from getting the falcon before him; he is willing to put Rhea in legal and even physical jeopardy without a second thought.
As Gutman explains to Wilmer, after offering to make him the "fall-guy" for the police: There is no question that Joel Cairo is gay, a fact that is implied frequently throughout the novel, as when Brigid O'Shaughnessy laughingly suggests that the boy outside shadowing them might be "the one you had in Constantinople" or, even more pointedly, when Sam Spade asks Wilmer where Cairo is, referring to him as "the fairy.
Hammett describes him as an overly preened dandy, with "slightly plump hips," wearing fawn spats, chamois gloves, and "the fragrance of chypre. Still, Hammett offsets this offensive caricature by giving Cairo some degree of individual dignity as a criminal: He stands up to an all-night interrogation from the police without cracking, and he decides in the end that his attraction to Wilmer, who must be turned over to the police, is less important than the profit he stands to make from the falcon.
Cairo's homosexuality is mocked throughout the novel, but as a man he is taken seriously. Topics For Further Study Research the development of detective work from the s through today. How do the methods of a detective like Sam Spade relate to the methods of detectives today? What are the differences and similarities between the way private detectives conduct their work when compared with public detectives?
How has modern forensic study changed the nature of detective work and solving crimes? Research the history, structure, and work of the Order of the Hospital of St. Why do you think Hammett chose this organization as part of the motivation for the plot of The Maltese Falcon? How likely is it that the order might have given a jewel-encrusted falcon to the Emperor Charles V, as is mentioned in Hammett's novel?
Sam Spade refuses to talk to the District Attorney, saying that he may be forced to testify before a grand jury or even a coroner's jury. Find out the legal status of witnesses before either of these two juries where you live, and prepare a report that outlines what Spade would be in for if either jury were convened in the deaths of Miles Archer and Floyd Thursby.
After Spade, the second most famous American detective of the twentieth century could be Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. Style Antihero While a traditional hero might be counted on to do the right thing for the common good, the protagonist of The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade, responds to every situation by examining what he himself stands to gain from it.
Spade is willing to betray his friends, and he has an affair with his business partner's wife. He does not work within the law, but checks in with his lawyer regularly to see how far outside of the law he can go. And he is an untrusting lover, accusing Brigid O'Shaughnessy of duplicity the moment that the falcon is discovered to be fake. Hammett establishes his questionable moral position in the novel's first paragraph, describing him as looking "rather pleasantly like a blond Satan.
He behaves heroically, forsaking the money and the girl who is begging for his support, in favor of a higher ideal. The novel successfully mocks traditional heroic values and at the same time reinforces them. Metaphor The Maltese falcon that is at the center of this story is described as being made of gold and jewel encrusted, making it very valuable, with a unique history that makes its value inestimable. Readers never see the real Maltese falcon in the story, but its importance drives the plot ahead.
It is a metaphor for Gutman's obsession, Cairo's greed, O'Shaughnessy's duplicity, and Spade's curiosity. Film director Alfred Hitchcock is said to have coined the phrase "the MacGuffin" to represent the object in a film or novel that all of the characters are seeking.
The object can be something of monetary value, like the Maltese falcon, or of strategic value, such as top-secret government documents. Sometimes, novels never even tell readers what is in the briefcase or vial or envelope that is being hunted.
The reason that an otherwise irrelevant term like "MacGuffin" is used is that the desired object usually is irrelevant, in and of itself, becoming important only when it is interpreted as a metaphor for the characters' motives and desires.
Historical Context Prohibition and Gangsters Sale of alcohol had been illegal in the United States sincewhen the 18th Amendment was ratified and signed into law. Congress passed the National Prohibition act, also referred to as the Volstead Act, to provide law enforcement agencies with the means to enforce the ban. While the intent of the amendment was to hinder the use and abuse of alcohol, it ended up having the unintended effect of creating a profitable industry for criminals to rise to power.
As federal agents struggled to control the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol, those who were willing to take chances and oppose the law saw great profits.
As a result, criminals found it in their best interests to organize their distribution networks to regional chains. Although illegal, liquor became easily available, most notably in "speakeasies," which were underground nightclubs. Profits were high enough to absorb the costs incurred when federal agents raided speakeasies and confiscated or destroyed liquor supplies, and local law enforcement agencies were bribed to make sure that such raids were infrequent.
Each town had its criminal empire. Chicago, for instance, spawned the most famous gangster of the time, Al Caponewho rose to power in In the next two years, he made 60 million dollars through the sale of liquor alone. Criminal syndicates like Capone's, and dozens of others like it across the land, were manned by low-level foot soldiers and those who patterned themselves after the gangsters.
By the late twenties the gangster image was well known in American popular culture. Hammett gives Floyd Thursby, murdered early in The Maltese Falcon, the background of a typical gang member of the time. Wilmer Cook, the young henchman for Casper Gutman, clearly patterns his menacing stance after pop culture images of hoodlums of the time, an image that Sam Spade openly mocks. The Great Depression The Maltese Falcon was published at a time when America needed escapist literature to deal with the harsh economic realities that had suddenly come crashing down, first on the nation and then on the whole world.
During the s, the economy had sailed along at a comfortable rate, with stock prices climbing year by year. In the absence of any major international conflict, the overall mood was one of peace and prosperity. That changed on October 29,just months before this novel was printed.
On that day, known as Black Tuesday, the stock market lost about 12 percent of its value, which, combined with massive losses the day before, started a downward trend that continued for the next three years. By the end of November, investors had lost billion dollars; by mid the stock market was worth only 11 percent of its value before the crash. The instability in the market drove America into one of the worst depressions it has ever experienced. Banks and businesses closed, causing ordinary people to lose both their jobs and their savings.
Unemployment went from around 6 percent before the crash to nearly 25 percent in the s. The government tried policies meant to stimulate the economy, but real economic growth was stalled until the start of World War IIinwhen America provided munitions for the warring countries before being drawn into the conflict itself. Critical Overview When The Maltese Falcon was first published, Dashiell Hammett was little known outside of the small, specific world of crime fiction.
This is the book that changed that and brought his name to the attention of reviewers of literary works. Hammett has something quite as definite to say, quite as decided an impetus to give the course of newness in the development of the American tongue, as any man now writing.
Of course, he's gone about it the wrong way to attract respectful attention from the proper sources He has not been picked up by any of the foghorn columnists.
He's only a writer of murder mystery stories. Moreover, it would not surprise us one whit if Mr. Hammett should turn out to be the Great American Mystery Writer. Hammett's subsequent novels—The Glass Key and The Thin Man—were championed by reviewers, but they also found more flaws in them than they did in The Maltese Falcon, which remained the high point of his literary output. It is considered acceptable and even friendly for an employer like Sam Spade to address an employee like Effie Perine with terms of affection such as "angel" and "precious.
The use of such terms, usually associated with romance, is socially and legally forbidden, as they might be used to pressure an employee into an unwanted relationship. Steamship passage from Hong Kong to San Francisco can take weeks but is the most common way of travel.
The trip from Hong Kong to San Francisco can be done by jet plane in a matter of hours. Hotels have house detectives who keep an eye on the guests to make sure that they are not bringing illegal activities into the hotel.
Usually, house detectives are retired policemen. Computerized information systems make it easier for ordinary desk clerks to check background information more thoroughly than house detectives were ever able to do. Americans think of private detectives as being on the border between legal and illegal activities.
The Maltese Falcon ( film) - Wikipedia
The private eye mythos still appears sometimes on television, but people generally do not believe the job to be as glamorous as it once was presented to be. Hammett's reputation remained static throughout the s and s, as he went year after year without producing another novel, though interest in The Maltese Falcon surged when the film version starring Humphrey Bogart was released in In the s, Hammett was sent to jail for his association with Communists, and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee actively worked to keep his works banned from libraries.
By the s, though, the anti-Communist hysteria was forgotten, and soon after Hammett's death in the reading public returned to him.
In the early s, in particular, there came a slew of biographies and critical studies of him, firmly ensconcing Hammett's name into the halls of American literature. As the great crime novelist Ross MacDonald took time to observe in his autobiography, Self-Portrait: Ceaselessly into the Past, "I think The Maltese Falcon, with its astonishingly imaginative energy persisting undiminished after a third of a century, is tragedy of a new kind, deadpan tragedy.
In this essay, Kelly traces the facts that can be deduced about Sam Spade's true personality from his interactions with characters who are not involved in the Maltese falcon caper. In The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett has produced a detective novel format that is so compelling that it has been done and redone over and over. It is a pattern that any moviegoer or television watcher is familiar with by now: The detective, Sam Spade, finds himself pulled into a web of intrigue surrounding a mysterious, valuable object that brings three murders to his doorstep.
Readers follow the story because they want to know who committed the killings and where the valuable black bird is. Keeping them interested is the work that a mystery story is supposed to do. What elevates this book from being a good read to being literature, though, is the interest that Hammett shows in Sam Spade's personality and the way that he provokes readers to wonder about it.
In the end, the mystery of the man turns out to be more compelling than any questions about who did what, with what, and how. Who is Sam Spade? At the end of The Maltese Falcon, readers find out that he is not the person that he has pretended to be all along. He proves to be a man driven by a sense of honor, which he has kept hidden throughout, a man who has known the answer to who killed his partner, Miles Archer, but who has kept on pursuing clues anyway, allowing himself to be seduced by Archer's killer, but not so far taken in by love that he is willing to let the woman he loves escape justice.
He is a man with an agenda so deeply buried under his placid demeanor that it is very likely that he himself is not aware of it. In addition to Spade's probable lack of self-awareness, Hammett makes his personality even more difficult to understand with the way that he tells this story. The third-person narrative voice is distant, never allowing access to what Spade really thinks.
Readers never enter into his mind. Although Spade's job is to observe the other characters and surmise from their behaviors what they are thinking, he applies no such scrutiny to his own actions. Without access to his thoughts, readers find themselves, at the end of the book, knowing the least about the character that they thought they knew the best. Deception is a tool in the detective's arsenal. Without access to his thoughts, readers can be deceived just as much as the characters that Spade is trying to fool.
For instance, when Spade walks out of the fat man's suite at the end of chapter 11, shouting and threatening, readers have no way of knowing that he has not actually lost his cool until the next chapter when he sighs in relief that his posturing has gone so well.
He shows similar temper with Lieutenant Dundy and District Attorney Bryan, using the pretense of emotion to leverage the situation. Over the course of the novel, he hides from Brigid O'Shaughnessy what might be the most important fact of all: Of course, this detective story would hardly be worth following through to the end if readers knew early on that Spade had identified O'Shaughnessy as the murderer of his partner and that all of her whispery pleas for his devotion and trust were wasted in the air.
It is good for the story to have Spade withhold his knowledge. In the context of the story, though, he never adequately answers why it was better to hold this knowledge back than to tell it to the police and thereby wash his hands of the whole affair. He says that it is his duty to turn in the killer of his partner, and that is what Spade eventually does, but Hammett does not make clear whether that is Spade's intention all along or something that he settles on at the last minute.
Spade's ambivalence is understandable—he is, after all, a man in love—but the fact that even he might not know his own intentions combines with Hammett's narrative distance to make Spade the darkest mystery in the book. The best way to separate Spade's true self from the various bluffs that he goes through to track down the Maltese falcon is to look at how he is with characters who are not even involved with the affair of the black bird.
There are few people in the book who do not relate to the search for the falcon, which makes them exceptional when they do appear. In order of least importance, the first of these characters would be the theater manager who hires Spade in a quick, one-paragraph scene in chapter Spade is in the thick of his search for the falcon, and, in fact, comes into possession of the object of everyone's murderous interests later in that same chapter.
But he takes time to listen to the man and accept a retainer from him. This small touch is seldom noticed. The man is so insignificant to the story that Hammett does not even bother to describe him, beyond referring to him as "swart.
In taking the man's retainer, Spade makes it clear that, this deeply into the case, with the police pressuring him with jail and the fat man offering him unimaginable riches, he does not expect his life to change much. It might even be unconscious, but Spade behaves as if he sees neither wealth nor jail in his immediate future.
This affirms his behavior at the end, when he tells O'Shaughnessy that he would still have turned her in if the falcon had been real, and he had collected his ten thousand dollars. A more significant indicator of Spade's true psychological state is the story that he tells O'Shaughnessy in chapter 7 about the man named Flitcraft, who, having been nearly hit by a falling girder, abandoned his wife and infant child, traveling the world for a few years before settling down to almost the exact same situation that he left.
The story is mostly notable because of its irrelevance to what is going on in Spade's life at the time that he chooses to tell it: He is falling in love and on the verge of finding out about the mystery of a lifetime. It takes a strong man to rein himself in and put the events surrounding him into perspective. Literary critics can debate whether the moral of the story is fatalism that a man is going to be what his destiny dictates, despite moments of awareness or freedom that Flitcraft, shaken by the awareness of death, realized that his former life had been just fine.
The important thing is that Spade focuses on this story when he feels the falcon intrigue drawing him in. What Do I Read Next? Fans of this book will see an entirely different kind of detective in debonair Nick Charles, the hero of Hammett's next and last novel, The Thin Man While Sam Spade is a rugged individualist, Hammett's previous detective character, The Continental Op, was a pudgy, nameless operative of the Continental Detective Agency.
Brian Lawson's novel Chasing Sam Spadepublished by Booklocker Press, presents a man who goes to San Francisco to investigate the murder of his father, only to become wrapped up in a web of intrigue with clues taken from Hammett's novel.
The city's atmosphere plays a strong role. The writer who is most often associated with Hammett is Raymond Chandler, whose stories of Los Angeles detective Phillip Marlowe have a sense of hardboiled fatalism and a verbal style that approaches Hammett's skill.
Many crime-novel connoisseurs consider James Ellroy to be the modern-day heir to Hammett and Chandler. Of his novels, L. Confidential is often singled out for its seamless storytelling and its dark vision. It tells the story of three policemen involved in a scandal-ridden case in Los Angeles in the s.
Though many literary studies have been made of Hammett's life, a more personal look at him, including family photos, was done by his daughter Jo Hammett in her book A Daughter Remembers And that is why, in the end, he resigns himself to accepting Iva Archer as a part of his life. The wife of his murdered partner, Iva appears to be involved in the falcon case in some way, but she really is not. She is an independent entity, a constant factor that was in Spade's life before the case started and one that will be there when it is over.
When Spade finds out that Iva was not home on the night Miles was shot, he has her story checked out in a roundabout way, having her tell her alibi to his lawyer, who in turn, unethically, tells it to Spade. He still does not seem convinced, but expresses satisfaction that the police will believe it. But Spade's own skepticism of Iva's story is suspicious: If he is not convinced that Iva was where she said she was when Miles was killed, then why is he so certain of Brigid O'Shaughnessy's guilt?
Or, conversely, if Spade knows that O'Shaughnessy killed his partner, then why does he show such interest in Iva's whereabouts? Throughout the story, Iva jealously stakes out Spade's apartment and his office, and he tries his best to avoid her. Apparently, though, he is curious about what she does when she is not around to bother him.
The man of conviction loses the money and the girl—this is the price of having convictions—but he ends up in the arms of a woman that he claims to detest. This might just be bad luck, but it could also be the fate that Spade, consciously or unconsciously, wants. He might realize that, whatever he does to escape, he, like Flitcraft, will end up with Iva or someone like her.
If Hammett had given more direct access to Spade's thoughts, the story would have been less interesting, and the lead character would certainly have been less compelling. Sam Spade seems to be a complex, interesting man trying to hold onto a simple, uninteresting life, even as he stands in the middle of a hurricane of love and intrigue.
Readers do not know what he is thinking; Spade himself might not even know, in any depth, what motivates him. The important thing is that he is so well realized in what he says and does that readers can recognize his fate and accept that it is right for him. William Marling In the following essay, Marling uses a then-and-now approach to analyze how Hammett weaved various period and stylistic references into his characters and their actions in The Maltese Falcon.
The Maltese Falcon is our greatest detective novel, but its status as such is the product of a continuing cultural consensus.
When published it announced a new style, one adopted widely, which we, viewing it in retrospect, have come to accept as the style of the period. In other words, The Maltese Falcon is a classic not only because of its literary quality and response to its age, but because when we look back on it we recognize the origins of what we have become. Alternate genealogies are always available, but we do not see ourselves in The Benson Murder Case or Little Caesar or even in Dashiell Hammett's other work as we do in this novel.
Recently the style of The Maltese Falcon has been questioned, a sign that the consensus is no longer solid. James Guetti, in his instructive essay in Raritan, "Aggressive Reading: Detective Fiction and Realistic Narrative," examined the prose of Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald from the paired perspectives of information theory and reader response criticism.
He found Hammett's style, especially his descriptions of characters, "provoking, even irritating" because they are a "collection of visual fragments. The elder Huston had to promise Jack Warner that he would not demand a dime for his little role before he was allowed to stagger into Spade's office.
By providing the cast with a highly detailed script, Huston was able to let them rehearse their scenes with very little intervention. The shooting went so smoothly that there was actually extra time for the cast to enjoy themselves; Huston brought Bogart, Astor, Bond, Lorre and others to the Lakeside Golf Club near the Warner lot to relax in the pool, dine, drink and talk until midnight about anything other than the film they were working on.
Huston used much of the dialogue from the original novel. The only major section of the novel which wasn't used at all in the film is the story of a man named "Flitcraft",  which Spade tells to Brigid while waiting in his apartment for Cairo to show up. Huston removed all references to sex that the Hays Office had deemed to be unacceptable.
Huston was also warned not to show excessive drinking. The director fought the latter, on the grounds that Spade was a man who put away a half bottle of hard liquor a day and showing him completely abstaining from alcohol would mean seriously falsifying his character.
Unusual camera angles—sometimes low to the ground, revealing the ceilings of rooms a technique also used by Orson Welles and his cinematographer Gregg Toland on Citizen Kane —are utilized to emphasize the nature of the characters and their actions. Some of the most technically striking scenes involve Gutman, especially the scene where he explains the history of the Falcon to Spade, purposely drawing out his story so that the knockout drops he has slipped into Spade's drink will take effect.
It was an incredible camera setup. We rehearsed two days. The camera followed Greenstreet and Bogart from one room into another, then down a long hallway and finally into a living room; there the camera moved up and down in what is referred to as a boom-up and boom-down shot, then panned from left to right and back to Bogart's drunken face; the next pan shot was to Greenstreet's massive stomach from Bogart's point of view.
One miss and we had to begin all over again. Was the shot just a stunt? Not at all; most viewers don't notice it because they're swept along by its flow. Ebert does, however, accurately review Huston's innovative choices during the scene in which Spade is drugged: Greenstreet chatters about the falcon while waiting for a drugged drink to knock out Bogart. The film is a nearly word-for-word, shot-by-shot visualization of the novel, absorbing its primary character motivations and narrative constructs.
The other male characters are undone by the connivance of Brigid O'Shaughnessy Mary Astorthe film's primary antagonist. They tended to be destroyed in the end, but their very independence and skill at power politics has been seen by some feminist scholars as a positive step in developing representations of women.
The flip side of this new empowerment of female characters was the emasculation of many of the male ones, an aspect of the genre that plays itself out repeatedly. There exists an easy level of objectivism in her treatment despite that sentiment, but it stems from a place of adoration rather than contempt, which is the veil through with Spade views the other women in the film.
Effie doesn't collect a whole lot of screen time, but her sidekick existence and necessity to Spade's success makes her archetype pivotal to Spade's own character. In this case, Spade underestimates the trouble that a woman could cause him, and it ends up putting even more pressure on him as he tries to unravel the mystery of the black bird.