RARA-AVIS: Chandler's women

Michael Sharp (msharp@binghamton.edu)
Tue, 26 Oct 1999 16:41:59 -0400

James wrote:

>By contrast, Chandler's women always seem to be either Saint or
>Devil, which matches the common male adolescent mode of perception.

This seems really off the mark to me. I don't see saint or devil anywhere. I mean, there are manipulative, deceptive, mean women in his novels, but in something like the Big Sleep, I don't see either of the women there as devil or saint. Carmen and ... unh, what's her name? Is it Vivian? Anyway, the Sternwood girls/women, while hugely flawed, don't seem demonic to me. Carmen's mental and Vivian is protective of her. Right? Am I misremembering the book? That would be bad (though not surprising).

And I don't see a single woman in his novels I would describe as "wish fulfillment." I wouldn't wish these women on anyone (except readers).

Disclaimer: I'm a huge huge huge fan of Chandler, I'm editing a collection of essays on Chandler's impact on American Culture, etc. So please know that what I say is biased as allgetout.

Hammett bugs me, but not bec. of his depiction of women.

Michael D. Sharp Department of English State University of New York Binghamton, NY 13902-6000 Office Phone: (607) 777-2418

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