Re: RARA-AVIS: Marlowe's morality

Date: 02 Sep 2003


Re your question below:

> I also appreciated the way you broke it all down,
> especially the
> two-fold effect. I'm curious, though (seriously,
> not a crap remark),
> would the same reasoning make Mike Hammer moral?
> (Except, maybe, in his
> sexual practices -- even though the women are always
> more than willing,
> at least in I the Jury he was cheating on his
> fiancee -- can't believe
> anyone doesn't already know the following, but
> SPOILER -- even if she
> did turn out to be the murderer OVER.) Clearly
> Hammer's intent is
> moral, but what about his taking on the role of
> judge, jury and
> executioner for himself?

Hammer would probably say he is answering a higher morality. Certainly in Spillane's best book (and one of my personal all-time favorite PI books), ONE LONELY NIGHT, Hammer starts to believe that he is one a mission from God.

According to the "two-fold effect" approach, however, Hammer's actions can't be justified because they are intrinsically wrong.

And the implicit part of the two-fold effect, the lack of any other available means to achieve a necessary, moral end, also renders his actions unjustifiable. By the time Hammer dispatches the monster at the end of each of his "quests," he generally has enough action to take to court. With the exception of THE GIRL HUNTERS, Hammer eschews societal justice, and deals out punishment himself. He's not satisfying the ends of justice; he's satsifying his own (and the readers') desire for immediate revenge. Marlowe takes a questionable action because he's GOT to take SOME action, so he takes the least morally objectionable approach available to him. Hammer's usually decided what he's going to do, right or wrong, before he even starts his investigation; he's never faced with a moral dilemma because he's already decided to take a fundamentally immoral course of action (though one he believes he can justify or at least rationalize).

Finally, Hammer is usually working without a client, so he has neither the sworn duty of a police officer to consider when he goes out after criminals, nor the interests of a client he's ethically bound to look out for. He has only his own personal interest in seeing the villain pay.

So Hammer's actions (as viscerally and dramatically satisfying as they are) don't stand up to any close moral scrutiny.

That's not a criticism of Spillane, by the way, just an application of a commonly-taught moral principal.


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