RARA-AVIS: Re: Maltese Falcon

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 22 May 2008

On May 22, 2008, at 6:06 AM, Patrick wrote:

> While
> on the opposite side is stalwart, heterosexual, Samuel
> Spade who may play fast and loose with the truth in
> the face of psychosis but in the long run,

Stalwart? Hardly. He's a guy with a well-documented and well- lubricated sliding scale of ethics and morality, and his ambivalence and ambiguity have been duly noted by both fans and critics for decades. His warning to Brigid that he may not be as "crooked" as he appears is -- in light of the book's previous events -- arguably just one more shading of the truth, perhaps less about doing the right thing as it is, as Sam himself allows, "good for business."

Or maybe not. The flexible nature of the truth, and the ambiguity of what and why we do things -- and what we say we did -- is certainly an underlying theme. Is there anyone in the book who doesn't lie?

Maybe Effie. Though doesn't she lie on the phone to cover for Sam at some point?

And as for Spade being heterosexual, well, there's one literary theory that claims Spade's homophobia was simply over-compensation. It would certainly add a whole new dimension to the story if he was doing BOTH Archers -- but on separate days.

After all, he does refer to Miles as his "partner."

> unlike
> Archer & Jacoby, does not fall prey to the lure of
> illicit sex. Donald Spoto wold have a field day with
> the underlying psychology of this novel.

Spade does not fall prey to "illicit" sex? By the generally accepted
(if not always practiced) standards of the time, he most certainly did. With his partner's wife, and then with a woman he was not married to.

In fact, that Spade did sleep with Brigid -- made quite clear in the novel and the first, pre-code film version -- was considered quite risque and controversial for the time.

Of course if -- in 2008 -- you're referring to homosexuality as
"illicit" sex, well, that's far out of our purview here.

Spade's more of an anti-hero than a hero, but I really can't see Brigid as much of a victim, either. Except maybe of greed and ruthlessness.


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