Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled and Existentialism

Date: 17 May 2005


A few points re your comments below:

> The op's sense of "right" in the Maltese Falcon is
> clearly subjective. He does not cite any objective
> philosophical or theological standard for his
> estimation that the search for his partner's killer
> is "right."

The Op wasn't a character in THE MALTESE FALCON. Sam Spade was. And while he may not cite any specific theologicial or philosophical standard to support his position, the way he expresses himself ("When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it.") suggests that he believes not only that he's doing what he's supposed to be doing, but that he's doing what he believes is EXPECTED of him. So, by extension, he must believe that some larger philosophical standard, or at least some societal expectation, undergirds his position, even if he's not capable of expressing it.
> I liked what you said about existentialism, but the
> worldview is not universal in the sense that
> someone
> can say they are in a position to right what is
> wrong.
> I don't know that Hammett's detective is
> existemtialist, but the morality in the story seems
> like the old "code of the West." That is a
> romaticized
> sense of justice is drawn and evolved in an
> environment that had no documented legal recourse.
> The
> kind of extreme vigilantism that breeds a Judge Roy
> Bean.
> Such an outlaw code is the "law of the street" that
> is
> seen in the Maltese Falcon. Life among society's
> outcasts (which includes PIs who make a living
> rubbing
> elbows with them) is not hinge on any universal
> sense
> of morality. Like the "code of the West," the rules
> are hinged on survival.

Spade may skirt the edges of legality, but I don't see how you can call what he does with Brigid "an outlaw code" or "extreme vigilantism."

He turns her over to the cops to stand trial, for crying out loud! He doesn't take the law into his own hands and shoot her himself (as Mike Hammer did in the counterpart scene of I THE JURY), but submits to the legal processes of the criminal justice system.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 17 May 2005 EDT