--- Jack Bludis <
> Patrick King, whose opinions I respect but
> disagree with said:
> >>People who kill each other over buried treasure
> not well, just like gamblers who murder each other.
> doesn't really matter if a jewel encrusted statuette
> lies hidden in some Greek grotto. This is a work of
> fiction that explores a certain type of mental
> I disagree that it is a mental illness, more of a
> maladjustment based on the obsession to get rich
> Gutman and pals, are seriously maladjusted. Mentally
> ill? To the extent that all of us have obsessions,
> quirks, beliefs, and drives that are, whether we
> admit it or not, neuroses when not psychoses. I
> think most crime fiction explores "certain kind of
> human beings." Some explores insanity, but not THE
> MALTESE FALCON. It explores human beings with flaws.
> To compare Gutman and his crowd, or even Bridget, to
> Charles Manson is a stretch.
Okay, Jack, which obsession are you willing to kill people
for? The environment? Global warming? Abortion rights? Rights
of the "unborn"? A Dennis Wheatley first edition?
Certainly people have killed for neurotic reasons. But when
an idea has gone so far that murder seems like a logical
solution, a clinical element of insanity has been reached.
This may not be "legal" insanity, but it is medical
Neurosis it an inappropriate reaction to events in life.
Psychosis is an incorrect interpretation of those
Brigid thought that possession of the black bird was worth
the price of murdering at least Myles Archer, perhaps several
other people. Charles Manson, if you accept the LA DA's
theory, believed that inciting a race war by murdering people
he didn't know would rejuvenate the planet, and he was
instructed to do this through lyrics in a Beatles' song. Both
of these are completely incorrect interpretations of
I can't see the Falcon as a "get rich quick" scheme, however.
The money angle was offered only by Gutman to Spade. Who was
going to pay Gutman or any of these people a million dollars
for the bird? These people wanted the Falcon for personal,
perhaps metaphysical purposes. The only way to make money
with that stollen statue is to melt it down for the gold and
jewels and sell it to a fence. None of them intend to do
Still, I'd go so far as to say the belief in "get rich quick"
schemes is a type of mental illness. Admittedly it afflicts a
very large number of people in civilized societies. Most
people do not murder others over their gambling obsessions.
Internet scammers, mail fraud, credit card and identity
theft; these people all have mental problems that should have
been addressed when they were first displayed in childhood.
Criminals of this sort seldom surprise the people who know
I would say that organized criminals are mentally ill. They
create alternate societies that work on a different set of
principles than those of the mainstream. The fact that they
sometimes become wealthy and powerful does not detract from
the fact that they're living in an illusion that most often
leads to prison or untimely death.
The unwillingness of society at large to recognize that
criminal activity is a mental illness is at the forefront of
its proliferation. If we refuse to accept a problem as
existing, if we think this behavior is
"normal" on a basic level, we can excuse our own culpability when presented with an illegal opportunity. And we punish instead of treating so the problem is never corrected.
I think these ideas are cleverly and subtly explored in THE
MALTESE FALCON and perhaps even more so in THE THIN MAN a
novel ostensibly about various type of mental illness.
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