Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Random Notes On Redemption

From: Patrick King (
Date: 05 Sep 2009

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    In The Maltese Falcon, Spade actively rejects love. He will not allow his feelings for Brigid to divert him from saving his business or being fitted for Archer's murder. Neither is he moved by the artistry/antiquity of the Falcon itself or the declaration that it is the stuff "dreams are made of". These are all romantic notions of spiritual transcendence, but if Spade does the right thing it is for entirely practical reasons. Chandler's idea of detectives as 20th Century white knights, however, lone men of virtue on the mean streets of the modern world saving fair damsels from gangsters and pornographers, may be hardboiled, but is not noir.


    I know we've had this discussion before but I've got to comment here. I can't believe we're reading the same book... or watching the same movie for that matter. Spade does not "actively reject love." He never "loved" Bridgid. He knows from the moment she walked into their office and lied to them that she was a sociopath, no more capable of love than of flying. He knew she would use sex to manipulate him and he played her game so HE could manipulate HER, which he does admirably. He knows she killed Miles from the time he declined to look at Miles body. Miles wasn't dumb enough to get caught in an ally with anyone but a beautiful woman. And Spade tells her this. Anyone can see by what happened to both Thursby & Jacobi how love affairs with O'Shaughnessy are resolved. Even Gutman tells Spade that she's dangerous. Sam Spade is a ruthless and competent private investigator. He is manipulative and has extensive experience with mentally ill people on both sides
     of the law. The affair of the Maltese Falcon is a job to him. If he were actually in love with O'Shaughnessy, the whole story would devolve into OUT OF THE PAST. And that would be noir.

    Again, I don't think "the artistry/antiquity" of the falcon come into this on Spade's part. The reality of the falcon is more to the point. The falcon is a psychotic delusion on the part of Gutman who's heard this story somewhere, probably in a book of occult lore. Gutman has surrounded himself with mentally ill people who will kill others for someone with $10,000. The reason Spade says, "The stuff that dreams are made of," at the end is because he realizes that there is no Maltese Falcon. Gutman is chasing a chimera.

    Patrick King


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