RARA-AVIS: Re: Chandler's women

Victoria Esposito-Shea (vmes@northnet.org)
Tue, 26 Oct 1999 21:48:19 -0400

Michael Sharp said:

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).
---------------------------------- I'm with James on this one. I should say up front that I haven't gone back to Chandler in a while, but my recollection is that the female characters are not only saints or devils, but that female sexuality comes off as really dangerous. Remember, Carmen Sternwood has kind of a black widow thing going, and the girlfriend in Farewell, My Lovely killed (or had killed? it's been a couple years) the fiercely loyal boyfriend who wanted to come back to her, and I'm remembering that there are at least two or three similar scenarios in other novels. (Hmmm. . . maybe I should go back and re-read some Chandler this week.)

Obviously, Linda Loring isn't in the "dangerous female" category, but she's extremely romanticized and possibly even redemptive--i.e., at the "saint" end of the spectrum.

I don't find this kind of dichotomy in Hammett's writing at all. To me, most of his women come across as characters first and as women second, if that makes any sense, and I think that strengthens his writing.

Oh, and Martha--I'd say that The Dain Curse is the weakest of Hammett's novels, but I still enjoy it. FWIW.


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