RARA-AVIS: Re: Cain and Hammett

From: logan keith (keith) ( keith@globetrotter.net)
Date: 08 Oct 2007

My late comments are due to a rereading of THE MALTESE FALCON on this
(Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend. My take on Spade is that he is no shining knight but looks out for himself first and foremost. In regards to women, I don't see that he is in love with Effie, or that she is in love with him.

In regards to Brigid, I interpret the ending as Spade telling it straight: he has feelings for her, these feelings might amount to something or might not. He knows she has lied since the beginning, and has known that she killed Miles from the get-go as well. But this does not affect Spade's feelings; he still thinks he may love her, which is why throughout the novel he asks Effie's opinion of Brigid, because he feels something special for Brigid even knowing that she is rotten, and he trusts Effie's instincts.

At the end I believe that he would have let Brigid off the hook had Wilmer been around to be the fall guy, but in his absence Spade needs someone to take the heat and so turns Brigid in. This does not mean he doesn't have feelings for her; he does, but his own self-preservation comes first. Spade openly admits he does not know what love is, but is willing to give Brigid a shot when she gets out of prison, unless she gets the death penalty.

I also read the three Spade short stories but didn't feel that they fleshed out his character in any way; in fact I felt they were light years from the quality of the FALCON.

Keith Logan

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