Anonymous asked: What do you think of the role of women in The Big Sleep? Do you think Marlowe's Cynicism has anything to do with the way he views women?
This is an interesting question and once again confirms that I have (in the words of ordinarywonder) “the most well read, intelligent anons.” I’m a bit mystified why anyone would ask such literate question anonymously, but I’m happy to answer all the same.
I think the role of women in Chandler’s novel’s is a product of cynicism rather than any prejudicial view of women. Arguably that is not the case with all hardboiled fiction. Spillane’s Mike Hammer takes some glee in the objectification of women. And Travis McGee is a white knight who helps damsels in distress. He not only vanquishes their tormentors, he can also cure all their hang-ups if they sleep with him.
But I don’t find that in Chandler. The women are pretty much like the men. They all have an angle, and Marlowe’s unique virtue is that he is too stubborn to be a cog in anyone’s wheel. He’s suspicious of everyone and resolutely self-contained.
The women Marlowe comes across are unsavory, no doubt. But are they all that different from the men? In much of hardboiled crime fiction, I think so. In Chandler’s case, I don’t think so.