Corruption in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

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In Raymond Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep, a private detective is trying to unravel a blackmailing case for a dying millionaire, General Sternwood. Philip Marlowe, the detective, finds that the case not only involves blackmail, but also homicide. Set and written in 1930’s America, the economic devastation of the Great Depression has a significant influence on the book’s plot, and showcases character’s struggle to retain honor and virtue in a world that revolves around profit-seeking delinquency and organized corruption. Marlowe’s work as a private detective brings him face to face with criminals of every variety, and each corresponds to a piece on the chessboard that appears repeatedly in the story. Marlowe’s symbolic identity is the well-intentioned knight, who represents the shred of chivalry that remains in a society of pawns and crooked kings, and the chess game is his combat against crime in a period of national despondency.
In the heart of the Great Depression, America as a whole is in serious financial turmoil and people have become pessimistic about the future. Money is the main incentive for the actions of several characters that Marlowe deals with throughout the story. When he wonders why Harry Jones and Agnes Lozelle want to blackmail him, Jones replies, “[Agnes is] a grifter, shamus. I'm a grifter. We're all grifters. So we sell each other out for a nickel” (Chandler 168). People have become money-hungry criminals simply because they have nothing left to lose

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