Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett Review: Character Analysis
This essay seeks to carry out a character analysis of Sam Spade, the protagonist in The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Importantly, the mystery and the use of orchestrated are important in the construction and development of a good fiction novel. However, another important point of concern is the role of the protagonist in the story. This is even very important in hard-boiled story where the detective serves as the eye of the audience to view the mystery world, which is the setting of the novel. The author of The Maltese Falcon constructed Sam to become the future of the novel instead of making him a medium for passage of information. A reader of the book has the ability to venture deep into the protagonist’s mind and thoughts to understand how Spade expresses his values, opinions, and worries.
As the novel’s protagonist, Sam Spade is aware of his efforts being unsuccessful ultimately. Although Sam tries hard to bring greater value to the realization of justice for everyone, he is well aware of the corrupt urban environment undercutting and outlasting his efforts. Hammett makes his readers believe that Spade is essentially a good detective with passion of hating hostility in the world, a vice he devotes himself to fighting against it. Raymond Chandler describes Spade as “cynical, tough individual with the passion of maintaining a strong and sustainable code of honor in a society that is completely destroyed by deception at various levels”. In the novel, Spade attains the description of “blond Satan”. Although the reader views Spade as a good character with the best of intentions, other characters in the fiction novel struggle to understand Spade’s true image and even describe him as “wild and unpredictable” man.
The portrayal of Sam Spade’s inner self tells the reader of a very cynical character that has a very ‘typical’ attitude towards women of the time around which the novel is set. In fact, women were struggling to gain freedom and independence from early 1920s to late 30s, and the protagonist would probably remember the ages when women had no voting rights across America. Sam Spade also seems to be in love with another character in the novel, Brigid O’ Shanughnessy, and yet he goes ahead to report her to the police for allegedly killing his partner known as Miles. As one continues to read the novel, the realization that Sam has a complex morality as constructed by the author becomes the driving force behind his character. However, although the Hammett wanted his readers to empathize with Sam Spade, his attitude of women in the present day world can only give the character a black eye from the readers.
Sam Spade is a detective by profession and puts more emphasis on the definition of his masculinity by displaying his success in the profession of justice. Spade’s detective reasoning and investigations with logic shows his reliance on his abilities as a man. To maintain his masculinity, Spade must have successful tactics of ‘solving’ any kind of problem coming along his way. Various scenes in the novel indicate various instances of illusion of order and defend the entire argument on masculinity. Sam is seen as grappling with his overreaction and misogynistic impulse, which are constantly a common indication of backlash resulting from the character’s ever-changing gender paradigms. It is evident that Sam hates women with passion yet he fears and disrupts them at all times to a point of corrupting his interactions with women. Furthermore, Sam’s masculinity impulses force him into lusty sexual attractions for women while his misogyny tries to prevent him from them at the same time (Hammett 57).
Brigid O’Shaughnessy seeks help from Sam and gives out all her money, Sam is adamant in helping and acts out of his masculine nature. Brigid offers to buy Sam with her body and Sam responds of ‘thinking over it’. Sam constructed his response in a perfect manner to protect his illusion of order while at the same time retaining power over Brigid. By ‘thinking over it’ Sam is successful in making the offer available while having the control of when to accept it. Sam seems to understand that by instant acceptance of the offer, he could be surrendering his masculine power to Brigid’s feminine usurpation. Therefore, the protagonist wins in retaining intellectual control and preserves his masculinity (Hammett 27).
In conclusion, the author portrays Sam Spade as an ideological model representation of general masculine self-containment. Sam assumes that female figures primarily serve as sexual foils to masculine figures. Notwithstanding the respect accorded to “romantic interests” of the detective by the fiction story, Sam Spade seems to suggest that such services indicate the exploitative continuum that exist in two different dimensions. Firstly, there is an exploitative continuum between sex and knowledge. Secondly, knowledge and power share an exploitative continuum together. This implies that Sam Spade wielded all the power that play between sex and knowledge and female characters find themselves expendable victims of the protagonist’s occupation. However, in the noir world created or intended by Hammett, Sam has to keep victimizing the feminine figures or fall the disillusioned victim for being robbed of his masculinity.
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. New York: Vintage Books, 1992. Print