“ (…) Cairo’s face jerked back not far enough: Spade’s right heel on the patent-leathered toes anchored the smaller man in the elbow’s path. The elbow struck him beneath the cheek-bone, staggering him so that he must have fallen had he not been held by Spade’s foot on his foot. Spade’s elbow went on past the astonished dark face and straightened when Spade’s hand struck down at the pistol. Cairo let the pistol go the instant that Spade’s fingers touched it. The pistol was small in Spade’s hand.” (Page 46, First Paragraph)
In this paragraph, “Spade” is repeated five times, “Cairo” is repeated twice, “elbow” is repeated three times, and “pistol” is repeated three times. The emphasis is put on Spade primarily because he is the protagonist in the story, but also because the reader is supposed to focus on the actions he is performing. “Cairo” is repeated twice, both occurring in a sentence describing the physical harm being done to him. The word “elbow” is repeated three times. The repetition accentuates that Spade is the character in control. It also speaks to Spade’s masculinity because to “defeat” the other man, he only had to use his elbow. He was not in need of a variety of techniques to knock Cairo out, but instead only needed the basic move of elbowing him. In addition, it only took Spade a few minutes. Finally, the word “pistol” is repeated three times because it is the object Spade is attempting to gain possession of through physical violence.
The first strand consists of “elbow,” “face,” “heel,” “toes,” “cheek-bone,” “foot,” “fingers,” and “hand.” The series of anatomical parts serves to make the fight more descriptive and allow the reader to clearly see which man is in charge. The second strand further emphasizes the dominance Spade possesses in the situation and compares the masculinity of the two men by employing words and phrases such as, “patent-leathered,” “the smaller man,” “must have fallen had he not been held,” “let the pistol go the instant Spade’s fingers touched it,” and “the pistol was small in Spade’s hands.” The combination of Cairo’s physical build, “smaller,” and his shoes, “patent-leathered,” both lead the reader to believe that Cairo is a feminine character. In general, men are larger and stronger and do not put much effort into their choice of footwear. Additionally, the phrase “must have fallen had he not been held” suggests that Joel Cairo cannot even keep himself upright while in a fight, turning the question of where the dominance lies again to Sam Spade. The second last sentence in the excerpt demonstrates that Cairo is unwilling to fight back, which jests at his masculinity. The final sentence describes the pistol as small in Spade’s hands, highlighting Cairo’s femininity once again because “normal” men do not have small hands.
This passage is not as much about the physical incident as it is the gender and sexual stereotypes that occurred when this book was written. Men were supposed to be manly, strong, and able to fight back when needed. Spade displays this stereotype by attacking Cairo to get the pistol. Cairo, on the other hand, is small and womanly, weak, and he proves that he is unable to defend himself, let alone fight back. The evidence in the text is found in the aforementioned second strand. The adjectives utilized to describe Spade were masculine whereas the adjectives applied to Cairo were feminine.
The passage has related to the novel so far by extracting specific information pertaining to stereotypes. It has accentuated the difference between Spade’s and Cairo’s characters and attempts to prove to the reader that Cairo is to be disapproved of, shown by his inability to “act like a man.” This is important because in “Film Noir,” much of the plot is based on gender stereotypes. By showing the audience that Spade is manly, the audience sees that he is able to solve the mystery and complete the case. His character can be trusted because by physically abusing the other man to obtain what he wants, it exhibits that he is capable.