The Significance Of The Black Bird In The Maltese Falcon

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In Dashiell Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon, the "black bird" serves as a crucial link connecting Sam Spade and Brigid O’ Shaughnessy. The black bird functions as the structural bond of Spade and Brigid’s relationship because it represents their greed and desire for wealth. Hammet points out that the Brigid’s greed for the bird causes her to utilize detective Spade as a tool: "Help me, Mr. Spade. Help me because I need help so badly, and because if you don’t where will I find anyone who can, no matter how willing?" (Hammet 35). This quotation illustrates Brigid’s submissiveness and dependency on Mr. Spade to help her. But later she becomes the dominant figure when she utilizes her monetary wealth to her advantage: “She opened handbag with nervous fingers and put two hundred-dollar bills on Spade’s desk” (Hammett 9). Spade admits his greed when he says, he only “believed [Brigid’s] two hundred dollars” (Hammett 33) and not her story. The narrator illustrates how Spade views money as an adequate payment for his time. Spade and Brigid represent both the real black bird and the fake black bird because of their faulty façade, which cover up their true personalities.

The name “black bird” is not a random happening, but carries its own meaning within the novel. The narrator calls the rare Maltese Falcon the Black Bird because it symbolizes Brigid’s façade built on lies and deception. Similar to the Maltese Falcon, which has a black coat covering the diamonds, Brigid selfish personality is hidden through her lies: Brigid “lied to [Spade] about [her] sister and all” in order to hide her true intentions of stealing the Black Bird. She utilizes her cunning mouth to hide everything true about herself: “You don’t think I had ...

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... timepiece that measured how much time they would spend together. Brigid’s desire for the Black Bird cause her to meet Spade, while Spade’s desire for justice cause the end of their relationship. The reason Brigid and Spade are unable to truly love one another is because they are both selfish in their own way. Spade takes too much pride as a detective and Brigid cares only for herself. Hammett highlights their dependency on one another. Because Spade serves as protection against Cairo and Gutman while Brigid is a source of information and evidence for Spade.

Work Cited

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. New York: Vintage Books, Publishers, Inc, 1992.

Irwin, John. “Unless the Threat of Death is Behind Them: Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon” Literary Imagination: The Review of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics: 341-374. Google Scholar. 08 March 2008 .
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