Those are excellent questions and I am happy to say that some of them made me look at the novel in a new way. The Flitcraft story is one that I thought I had "figgered out" a long time ago. But you just made me see that it gives and gives. Thank you.
----- Original Message -----
From: Frederick Zackel
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2010 06:16
Subject: RARA-AVIS: Noir for the classroom
I'm gradiing sixty essays right now. I'll donate this assignment to
rara-avis. (How would you do?)
The Hammett Flitcraft Essay Assignment is due Monday March 1st
This essay is worth fifty (50) points.
The Flitcraft Parable appears in Chapter Seven of "The Maltese Falcon."
Did you notice it?
The Parable stops the plot in its tracks.
Why must Spade tell Brigid this curious story?
By the same token, why was it important she does not understand what he is
In classical lit, often stories are told and audiences are not listening. I
wonder what the writer was up to using that narrative scheme.
Maybe you think telling the Flitcraft parable lifted the lid on Spade's head
to see how he works inside.
One student once said, "Spade must have really loved her to warn her like
Another student once wrote that Brigid played her trump card and it was a
Spade. (ROTF LOL.)
Another dug up Jo Hammett's biography of her father.
Somebody said Flitcraft's beam is Spade's Falcon. What does that mean?
Somebody else found Hammett in Gerry Brenner's "Performative Criticism
Experiments in Reader Response." Wha????
Others quoted Camus on Sisyphus. Some talked about Einstein and the Old Man
who Plays Dice with the Universe. I mean, we are talking about how one views
Life, the Universe and Everything, right?
Well, you won't be able to answer until you finish reading the entire book.
Then go back and dig.
What is the secret of Flitcraft?
Oh, there is no single answer. It is a debate. So do not look for a single
answer. Prowl the debate. See what secrets you can uncover.
The Falcon is a treasure hunt. No kidding. What treasures from philosophy or
theology or psychology or cosmology can you see?
Maybe you want to delve into literature. The only other instance I know
where the plot comes to such a screeching halt is the Alas Poor Yorick scene
in Hamlet. I wonder if . . .
Write an argumentative essay. Just so I have good enough research from
everybody, at least six (6) quotes from outside academic and / or scholarly
sources are required.
Quote the Falcon as often as YOUR ESSAY needs; I am not counting those
quotes. (I almost said Quote the Raven. You know, I bet Hammett read Poe,
too, and not just Twain.)
Check with the Pop Culture library at Jerome. It is one of the best.
Base your essay upon your personal experiences and the analytical skills you
have acquired through this course.
Analyze but don't philosophize.
"Analyze" means "separate your ideas into parts" and then look closely at
each one separately. Don't sit back and ruminate (like a philosopher) on the
Argue your thesis. Your thesis should be a well-reasoned, well-supported
convincing argument. One that is authoritative and persuasive. Whatever
reasons, evidence, and examples are given, all support your judgment and
opinion. So your authority & credibility are at stake here. Solid evidence
and sound reasoning come from a thorough analysis (which is a detailed
Be very specific; identify precisely characters, scenes, page numbers,
whatever -- wherever necessary. When the character changes, point that out
and suggest why.
Six (6) quotes are required, either from outside academic and / or scholarly
sources. Internet sources are NOT permitted.
Let me repeat that: Internet sources are not permitted. Nor are dictionary
definitions or encyclopedia entries. Cite specific passages or incidents to
buttress your argument. Quote your outside sources very often to prove each
of your points. A Work Cited Page should be included.
This essay is due Monday, March 1, 2010.
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