RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V2 #107

Ryan Benedetti (rhino@cybercen.net)
Tue, 25 Nov 97 17:43:42 -0700 >The Flitcraft parable is the key. Falling beams and all. The parable
>stops all the action in the novel, just as Hamlet's scene with the
>gravedigger stops the action in Hamlet. Both scenes are going mano y mano
>with the Grim Reaper.

"He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then
no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them
not falling."

Spade says this just after describing how Flitman
married a woman a lot like his first wife. After
Spade recounts this tale-within-the-tale, O'Shaughnessy makes a play
for Spade's intimacy and trust, which he quickly rejects.
Really, this miniature narrative of Spade's expresses
the microcosm of his relationship with Bridget. Like
Flitman, Spade starts adjusting to the "falling beams"
that O'Shaughnessy drops on him. In the end, he incriminates
her and, in the last scene, "adjusts himself" to his
normal everyday routine.

In fact, where we expected him
to make a play for Shaughnessy, he makes a play
for Effie Perrine, who resists him.
At that point, Hammet tells us, "Spades face
became pale as his collar." This is probably
the deepest effect we've seen a woman have on him.
He has no wisecracks, no cutting one-liners with which to respond.
For once, he is speechless. Spade returns to Effie Perrine,
the way Flitman returns to his second, but nontheless,
archetypical wife. Spade, ironically, wants to adjust
to "beams not falling," but in his world, he knows,
they're going to fall as often as the San Francisco rain.
None may fall as hard or as close to him
as Bridget O'Shaughnessy, but they'll still fall his way.

As far as the homerotic connections, I don't find them convincing.
You'd have to use a lot more Freud than Hammett to convince me
that Spade expresses homoerotic cravings that are above and beyond your
basic heterosexual male. As we see from above, Spade fears sexual power
relations not based on good old-fashined trust and predictability.
Cairo, though he obviously tends to the homosexual side,
is not as dangerous to Spade as O'Shaughnessy is.
If you want to use the psychoanalytic approach, go to Jung.
O'Shaughnessy would serve as a good example of Jung's notion
of the anima. In Jungian terms, Bridget becomes a projection
of Spade's anima, a contrasexual replica of his own face
as expressed in someone of the opposite sex.

Spade wears a variety of masks in his work. Masking
allows him to get underneath the scam most clients
lay on him. He is closer to the darker side of his unconscious
than any of the other characters in the book, and he is so,
because of his role as shamus. His function in his society
is to expose all of the underlying darkness of the human psyche.

Cairo would be more like Jung's notion of the shadow,
which, Jung tells us, "is always the same sex as the subject."
As Jung says, "the shadow is a moral problem."
And, obviously, Cairo presents a moral counterpoint
to Spade's ideas of morality. Cairo's approach is foreign
and dangerous to Spade, but not to the degree that O'Shaughnessy's is.
Jung says, "the shadow can be seen through and recognized fairly easily."
Spade definitely sees through Cairo, though Cairo does offer
some occassional surprises.

The anima is the "enveloping, devouring and embracing"
element in the male subject. As Jung puts it, the anima

"remains resistant, has to be conquered, and submits only to force.
It makes demands on the masculinity of a man, on his ardour, and
above all on his courage and resolution
when it comes to throwing his whole being into the scales."

Spade will not give in to O'Shaughnessy. She threatens
to extinguish him with his own need for her. However, when
she is carted away by the cops, Spade's anima
is still there, as stubborn as ever, and he projects
his anima on Effie Perrine who, like O'Shaughnessy,
begins again the game of resistance. Spade is never
truly released from his power relations with his archetypal anima.
Once again, I'll quote Jung, "She is not the invention
of the unconscious, but a spontaneous product of the unconscious."
Thus, we can guess, she will always be there in Spade's
dreams, and visions, and fantasies. He will always
seek out her mystery as a new client is ushered in,
(Iva for example) but she will always resist him and he will
try in vain to resist her. She is never outside of him.
She walks where he walks and inserts her mask over
every woman's face. Spade is the masked man who uses his masks
to unveil the darkness of the world. But the mask
that will never come off is the anima's.


Rhino B. Ugly

"Some mornings it's just not worth
chewing through the leather straps."
--Emo Phillips

Ryan Benedetti

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