The Big Sleep

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  • Date Submitted: 01/30/2013 09:08 AM
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The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep: Novel or Movie?

Architects forever changed the urban landscape when they began building skyscrapers. After only a short while they turned away from the burdensome load-bearing walls and opted for a thin, geometric steel skeleton. The skeleton allowed more glass and embellishments; businesses could have huge windows to display their wares on bustling city streets. Raymond Chandler creates a strong skeleton of figurative language in his novel, The Big Sleep. Howard Hawks piles the importance of his movie on his famous duo, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Which is finer? Stories and skyscrapers are the same.

Details run throughout Chandler's text. They come in the form of slap-you-in-the-face similes, lively images and repeated metonyms. The figurative language unifies the book. With every turn of the page we are blasted with sly similes. Chandler can pack five or more on a page and still maintain the super-cool voice of his narrator, Marlowe. Agnes' silver nails move rather than she. But Chandler's most crafty play is in Chapter Twenty-six. He uses figurative language to make his characters predators or prey. Marlowe first "[hangs] there motionless, like a lazy fish in water", then he moves "like a cat on a mantel" (Chandler 171, 172). Marlowe is stalking the office while Canino speaks to Jones in a "purring voice;" Jones has a "bird-like voice" (175, 171). Later, Marlowe addresses Jones's body and says "You died like a poisoned rat, Harry, but you're no rat to me" (178). Harry Jones wasn't Marlowe's prey. The dynamic of the chapter is set up through imagery and metaphor.

I love Chandler's figurative language and I love his narrator. Marlowe is the reason that this language is possible. Marlowe isn't going to shuffle around topics; he goes straight to the point and is determined to drag you along. That is why he uses such language &emdash; to pull us in and let us understand. We hear you Marlowe. We are getting every point....
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