Re: RARA-AVIS: Maltese Falcon

From: Patrick King (
Date: 22 May 2008

--- Nathan Cain <> wrote:

> I don't know that I 100% buy my own oppressed female
> argument, but I
> would say that Brigid is not a psychopath. She's a
> greedy schemer
> which makes her just like every other character in
> the book, including
> Spade, especially Spade. As you say, Spade at least
> suspects her of
> murdering Thursby from the beginning and then,
> instead of confronting
> her immediately, he sleeps with her and deceives her
> up till the very
> end, when he can do the most damage, and when he's
> sure there's
> nothing more in it for him. He's as much of a
> manipulator as she is,
> and his behavior towards Thursby's widow shows that
> he's not just
> screwing around with Brigid to get back at her for
> what she did. It's
> a pattern for him. Revenge doesn't really enter into
> it. He is, as
> Hammet described him, "a blonde Satan."
***************************************************** Okay! The "blond Satan" bit is what Spade looked like. There is a cunning cast to his face that makes him look shrewd. I don't believe that Hammett meant or implied he was 'satanic' philosophically.

I define a psychotic as a person whose reality has little in common with the reality of the people they live around. Psychosis is a very interesting and hard to detect mental disorder. One of the first signs is irrational lying. If a person lies for no logical reason, (a logical reason for lying is to hide embarrassment) they are quite possibly psychotic. People who believe they are on the trail of a priceless heirloom which is more important to them than human life are, by definition, psychotic. Even if they're right, which in this case they were not, this is an irrational method of solving a problem. O'Shaughnessy has no reason whatsoever not to put her cards on the table when she first meets Spade & Archer. Her intent is to manipulate and use them. All of these people seeking the Falcon are psychotics. Their shared reality is completely out of wack. Spade, due to his experience with criminals, can get his head around their reality without getting sucked into it. This is really his talent.

Couple of interesting points: psychosis is a mental disorder. Sociopathy, a word which today is often used interchangeably with psychosis, is a personality disorder. This is an important distinction. They share narcissism but a sociopath may be in the here and now, just think they're better than other people to the extent they don't have to obey the same rules. A psychotic always has an unique world-view. That's the difference. These two disorder afflict about 5% of US citizens. Less than 1% of psychotics &/or sociopaths are actually criminals. They tend to be very charismatic, often have high IQs, many people driven to executive jobs suffer from these problems. Richard Nixon, for instance, is literally a text-book example of a psychopath as was his Attorney General, John Mitchell. They believed that the schemes they worked up were more important than the laws they were both sworn to defend.

Patrick King


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