Sound Judgment in Unsound Circumstances In Hammett's The Maltese Falcon

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Dashiell Hammett renovates the mystery genre by popularizing the never before seen hard-boiled crime fiction. By serializing his works through literary magazines of the 1920s like The Black Mask, Hammett shares his unsentimental tales of mystery, violence, and promiscuity. What was first a surveillance assignment carried out the protagonist Sam Spade and partner Miles Archer turns into a murder investigation, as Archer is found dead that evening. Spade is a suspect, as Archer’s wife Iva and Spade are having an affair. The reader learns that the woman who requested the surveillance in the first place, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, lied to the partners. The relationship Brigid builds with Spade builds when Brigid introduces a plan to sell a gold, jewel-encrusted falcon to her former partners Joel Cairo, Wilmer Cook, and Casper Gutman. The meeting with Cairo turns for the worst when these men seeking information about the falcon nearly kill Spade. The Los Angeles police lead further investigation into Archer’s death and Spade’s affair with his wife. In Cairo’s hotel, Spade realizes that the falcon is likely onboard the ship La Paloma. Later, the ship’s captain Jacobi staggers into Spade’s office and dies holding a parcel containing the falcon. Meanwhile, Spade receives a false call from Brigid that she is in trouble. Spade secures the falcon, and heads for Gutman’s suite. There, Spade receives partial payment, and later gives Gutman the falcon. Gutman removes the protective enamel coating only to find that the falcon is made of lead rather than gold. Spade finally contacts the authorities about the falcon and the murders. He also reveals to Brigid that he knows that she killed his partner, Archer, and turns her in to the police. The novel c... ... middle of paper ... ...Falcon. New York: Random House, 1957. Print. Kelly, David. “Critical Essay on The Maltese Falcon .” Novels for Students. Ed. Ira Mark Milne and Timothy Sisler. Vol. 21. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 198-201. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. Marling, William. “Critical Essay on The Maltese Falcon .” Novels for Students. Ed. Ira Mark Milne and Timothy Sisler. Vol. 21. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 201-209. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. Symons, Julian. Dashiell Hammett. N.p.: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1985. 66-72. Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. Ira Mark Milne and Timothy Sisler. Vol. 21. Detriot: Gale, 2006. 209-212. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. “ The Maltese Falcon .” Novels for Students. Ed. Ira Mark Milne and Timothy Sisler. Vol. 21. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 187-192. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Oct. 2011.

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