Reaction Paper 2

“’I won’t be able to wear an evening gown for two weeks, you brute.’ He grinned humbly, said, ‘I’m no damned good, darling,’ made an exaggerated bow, and went out again.” page 117

Throughout the course of the novel, The Maltese Falcon, there has been a wide array of action, drama and literary significance. One of the more interesting aspects of the novel is that the relationships within the story set a foundation for many other literary works, motion pictures and way of thinking. Noting the interactions between the strong detective, Sam Spade, and his various mistresses sets a foundation of the stereotype stating that men are men and cannot control their temper.

When Spade speaks with Effie Perine, his secretary and mistress, she tells him that Brigid O’Shaughnessy, another mistress, has gone missing. This unleashes Spade’s barbaric temper, which results in him clenching Effie’s arms with such force that it leaves a mark. When Spade finally returns to a calm and collected state, he has no shame in admitting: “I’m no damned good” (117). Despite the fact that what he is saying is true, he does not mean what he says. As he spoke the words, his actions did not match the severity of the situation. The moment he “grinned humbly” (117), the magnitude of the brutality completely diminished. His “exaggerated bow” (117) is rather comical after his smirk shortly preceding this action. The description placed on Sam Spade’s reaction parallels that of many men during this time and throughout more recent times. There is not a large concern for the woman involved; there is simply a statement of having “a most violent temper”(110) and being nothing more then a “brute” (117). A sarcastic statement followed by a comical gesture undermines the negativity in her speech. She is not taken seriously, her physical along with mental well being are not the priority, and instead, she is made to be over dramatic.

This idea of men not taking responsibility for their “violent temper” (110) lays a foundation for the way many people view men. In Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Stanley Kowalski plays a much harsher Sam Spade in regards to relationships. These portrayals of women being subjected to abuse date back nearly twenty years earlier to the time of The Maltese Falcon. Many women today still believe in this stereotype that men cannot control their inner “brute” (117).  This novel has the beginning of the incorporation of mental and physical abuse in a relatively modern day society.


“Spade was immobile in his chair until the fat man, with a flourish and a bow and a jocular ‘Ah, sir, this kind of medicine will never hurt you!’ had handed him his refilled glass.  Then Spade rose and stood close to the fat man, looking down at him, and Spade’s eyes were hard and bright.  He raised his glass.  His voice was deliberate, challenging: ‘Here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.’”(108-109)

The dichotomy of Spade and the fat man’s behavior towards each other creates a greater understanding of Spade’s true self; he is almost always in control of his surroundings.  Although it could be said that, in his interactions with the fat man, Spade is not in control of the situation, but the truth of the matter is that Spade is so far in his element that he was able to control the outcome of this encounter.  Spade’s “hard and bright” eyes, in contrast to the fat man’s “caution”(108) filled eyes, give away the fact that he is the one with the upper hand, even if the fat man has the information that Spade desires. His “deliberate” and “challenging” toast is one example of how he is able to hold the power when confronted with a strange environment and someone of whom he has no prior knowledge. When Spade smashes the glass out of anger later on in the conversation, he seems to have forfeited his authority; this is not true, as he reveals his bluff in the elevator while leaving.  Spade created this ruse in order to fool the fat man into believing that he (the fat man) had control, further demonstrating his mastery of everything around him.  As a detective, Spade must always have a firm grasp on his surroundings and even the smallest slip up could throw a case astray; Spade’s ability to make cold, calculated decisions in times where he is not in control initially gives him the capability of turning any interaction seemingly weighted against him into a an ideal situation for him.  It is this power that makes Spade a good detective; if he were not able to take charge in unsavory situations, then he would not have made it past Joel Cairo’s attempt to rob him.  His command of his surroundings are the reason why he always comes out on top, because he does not allow anyone to dominate him.

Writing #2

Gillian Horn

Seminar Writing

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


On page 53, I chose the passage that is after Spade finds Cairo at the Theater when he wonders off, and is telling him about the guy following him. Spade asks Cairo if he knows who this guy whose following and Cairo responds that he swears he has no idea. Cairo “ Wet’s his lower lip with his tongue” and asks if it was wise if the guy had seen them together. Spade questions Cairo, but then he responses again with “ I give you my word I do not know him, Mr. Spade. I give you my word I have nothing to do with him. I have asked nobody’s assistance except yours. on my word of honor”. Instead of being in the normal state we have seen Cairo and Spade mostly in the begging of the book which is argumentative, Cairo is somewhat praising of Spade at this current moment. He is showing Spade how much his view has changed on Spade and how loyal he wants to be towards him. I primarily chose this passage, because although it isn’t written that Cairo is “ gay”, this passage kind of gives a clear image that he could be towards Spade. The way he licks his lips, how kind he is towards Spade now, and his attitude. Although before in the begging where Spade first meets Cairo, the altercation they have doesn’t show much of Cairo’s love towards Spade because he tries to pull a gun on Spade, but I believe over the time of the book Cairo begins to realize how in the end Spade will win more things over him and how just being close to him would make things better.

I think that the fact Cairo may be gay plays a big part to the book because during this period of the book, gay isn’t a word that most people know quite yet and thoughts of homosexuality to people is a gross thought. Cairo in fear of embarrassment doesn’t come out to the town or to Spade, but he tries to show it in ways that only Spade can catch on to. In this example that I chose, he licks his lips which to most people is a sign of affection or like attraction, a clear sign that Cairo could be attracted to Spade. As mentioned before, in the begging of the book Cairo clearly has something against Spade because he believes he’s hiding something very important which causes fighting between them and him to get knocked out. I think that Cairo learns something important from that fight that if he wants any chance with Spade, he needs to get on his good side and realize that Spade is clearly the one with more power. Spade knows that he has a more powerful mind than Cairo, it is just that Cairo has to realize that. I think he finally does when Spade is able to track him down at the theater. That is why he says he gives Spade his “ word of honor”.

From taking the advice from Writing Analytically about observing text and making inferences, I believe that by observing the way Cairo acts, is able to allow me to make clear inferences on his interactions with other characters in the books, primarily with Spade. I think Cairo, although not a big part to the book, is a character that deserves a ton of observation. He does certain things that allow you to make judgements on his overall characteristics. When he is brought up with Spade in parts of the story, you see him in many different lights. While in the begging in the story you see him fighting with Spade almost facing near death by being knocked out to the middle of the story where he is telling Spade he gives his “ full honor” to him. This can give the reader many different thoughts to think about Spade and Cairo’s relationship throughout the book and helps the reader pin point certain actions that lay out in events between them.

3rd Analysis: Digging Deeper

Tried to delve deeper into the overall meaning of the ego within noir or The Maltese Falcon, enjoy!


3rd Analysis: Digging Deeper

“Spade’s face became pale and hard. He spoke rapidly in a low furious voice: ‘Think again and think fast. I told that punk of yours that you’d have to talk to me before you got through. I’ll tell you now that you’ll do your talking today or you are through. What are you wasting my time for? You and your lousy secret! Christ! I know exactly what that stuff is that they keep in the subtreasury vaults, but what good does that do me? I can get along without you. God damn you!” (Page 109, last paragraph)


This is it. This is the boiling point for Sam Spade, the hardboiled detective, that truly reveals what he’s capable of. Through the entirety of The Maltese Falcon, Spade has remained cool headed, under control, and able to contain his ego. Yet, with the fat man or “G”, Sam fully embodies his masculinity and demands control over the only character who could likely have him killed at the flick of a wrist. His ego has taken over and pushed him to his maximum, what does this mean for the other characters or the story?

The Maltese Falcon and the noir genre has revealed its base being built upon sexuality, masculinity, and gender, but the thing that can effect how any given character will work with these traits is their ego. Spades ego, now revealed to be bolstered and solid, is his support and his success. It is how he pushes himself to be better and stronger…and on several occasions to get what he wants (which is in reality just about everything he does).

However, how could the detective be a perfect character? A strong man with an ego to back everything up, but an ego that could be his downfall or even a denial of weakness. Spade knows this “G” is strong, even with annoying henchmen, and could potentially ruin him. So he must push back hard…but what of his other situations? His ego is a cover for what truly is a man that can’t be an honest boyfriend or someone full of greed.

This applies for all the other characters as well! Their own ego or stature is only what they tell themselves. Brigid and her timid or even violent outburst, Cairo’s bashful yet persistent pleas for information, the Police’s belief in their own cause, and once again Sam’s twisted thought of what is right through his own means.

The characters of Noir are only as good as their ego allows them to be, that built up with the mentioned trio of traits is what truly makes the character. The sickening part of Noir’s or atleast The Maltese Falcon’s main detective’s ego is that it isn’t just a factor into the characters confidence,  but also what reinforces his pride and self centered decisions.


Monkey Wrenched

Deanna Ballard

Professor Kersh



Reaction Paper #2

“…My way of learning is to heave a wild and unpredictable monkey- wrench into the machinery. It’s all right with me, if you’re sure none of the flying pieces will hurt you.” The Maltese Falcon Pg 86

Throughout the beginning chapters of this novel, (pages 3-60)  Sam Spade has been characterized as the typical detective; smart, smooth and very methodical – very much like a well oiled machine. However, in the latter portion of the book, (page 61 on), he has broken from his calm, composed, machine like mold and has become seemingly insane. Spade has began weaving intricate lies, playing games with people and his alliances to them.

I do not think Spade has gone mad or has undergone some behavioral transformation. I believe that this “wild and unpredictable monkey- wrench” of a man he’s become is not actually a transformation, but simply an unveiling of his real personality. Spade puts on this cool, calm, composed persona to gain trust and respect  so he can get away with being the absurd individual he truly is.

This is not to say that Sam Spade is not a brilliant, well oiled machine, every move he makes is very deliberate and calculated, with a clear end goal in mind. His monkey- wrench approach to gathering information has proved to be very effective, as every “flying piece” that has come from his actions have been relevant and helpful to him.

Un-Whipped – A Maltese Falcon Reaction Paper

“Sure you are.” He took tobacco and papers from his pockets and began to make a cigarette. “Now you’ve had your talk with Cairo. Now you can talk to me.” She put a fingertip to her mouth, staring across the room at nothing with widened eyes, and them with narrower eyes, glanced quickly at Spade. He was engrossed in the making of his cigarette. “Oh, yes,” she began,”of course-” She took the finger away from her mouth and smoothed her blue dress over her knees. She frowned at her knees.

“She put a fingertip to her mouth, staring across the room at nothing with widened eyes, and then narrower eyes, glanced quickly at Spade.” Brigid O’Shaughnessy is an interesting character. Not only does she act as our femme fatal in The Maltese Falcon, but she is a character who can’t quite figure out what sort of character she wants to be. Earlier in the novel, she pistol whips Joel Cairo, a man who she is implied to have a history with, but then she is promptly found on a chair, crying and acting rather childish. In this passage, we see a more subtle part of her indecision as a character.

As Sam Spade is pulling tobacco and papers from his pocket to make a cigarette, something that Hammett has before turned into a descriptive sexual fantasy of sorts, we get to see Brigid’s response. As Spade rolls his cigarette, we see his character in control of that situation, but it’s also mirrored in his conversation with Brigid. Sam is the one rolling the cigarette, he’s also the one stating to Brigid that she can talk to him. He doesn’t ask her; he tells her.

Brigid responds with her own version of Spade’s cigarette. She “places a fingertip to her mouth, staring across the room at nothing with widened eyes.” Her response is subtly sexual, her finger in her mouth, mimicking Spade’s cigarette. Her widened eyes, however, give away her almost childish nature. But just like when she pistol whips Joel Cairo, we see her indecisive nature when she narrows her eyes. She makes an attempt to be more “hardboiled” even if Hammett portrays her as needing Spade. Hammett reverts her back to her more childish nature before the paragraphs end however, taking her finger away from her mouth and smoothing out her dress over her knees.

This is where the reader can see Hammett portray Spade as the “tall, strong, mysterious, hardboiled image of masculinity”, but this time we can see the portrayal through Brigid. The last sentence of the passage, “She frowned at her knees.” is reminiscent of Wilmer, the smart mouthed boy who shadows Spade earlier in the novel. Both characters, who are portrayed as childish (either all the time or in passages), have difficulty looking Spade in the eye. Brigid stares at nothing with wide eyes and then stares at her knees. Wilmer is able to bring his gaze up the Spade’s chin once. Hammett uses this illustration to say that neither character can measure up to Spade. They are both childish, whereas Spade is masculinity personified. Spade is in control, he is the one rolling the cigarette, he is the one asking the questions, he is the one telling (not asking) Brigid to talk to him.

This entire passage continues to place Spade in a position of power amongst all the other characters he encounters. It places Spade, the image of masculinity, at the top of the “food chain” of power. He is in control of his cigarette, he is in control of the conversation with Brigid. He even gets a slight jibe in at Cairo suggesting that he is superior to him, that Brigid has had her talk with Joel and it ended with Cairo getting pistol whipped. Now she needs to talk to him and he, the tall, strong, intelligent and above all else masculine hero, will succeed where Joel Cairo, the queer, fat, foreigner, failed.

– E.P. King

Sam Spade and Betrayal

Page 90: “Red rage came suddenly into his face and he began to talk in a harsh guttural voice. Holding his maddened face in his hands glaring at the floor, he cursed Dundy for five minutes without break, cursed him obscenely, blasphemously, repetitiously, in a harsh guttural voice. Then we took his face out of his hands, looked at the girl, grinned sheepishly, and said: ‘Childish, huh? I know, but, by God, I do hate being hit without hitting back’.”


This passage occurs at the beginning of Chapter 9. Spade returns from the standoff with Cairo, Dundy, and Brigid. He has just been slapped by Cairo and unable to return the aggression, as Cairo was asked to leave immediately. At first glace, the strand of aggression presented in this paragraph seems most obvious. Hammett’s use of “obscenely”, “blasphemously”, and “red rage” quickly portray Spade’s anger at the situation. Upon second look, the repetition of “harsh guttural voice” and “cursed” becomes more apparent, as each phrase appears twice.

This passage is pivotal to the reader’s understanding of Sam Spade. It is a turning point for his character. Throughout the novel, we see Sam as angry, but very calculated; he is always careful not to let his emotions show around other people. Here, this is not the case. He blatantly expresses his anger towards Dundy and Cairo right in front of Brigid. Cleary, Sam Spade needs an emotional outlet and is not quite as cool and collected as he seems.

I think that Spade was so upset over this turn of events because he let others have control and take the best of him. From reading the previous chapters, one can see that Spade has mistrust for authority figures. Again, one can assume that this is because of his lack of control. Also, Sam Spade has no aversion to violence. In fact on page sixty-nine of the novel he says to Cairo, “And when you’re slapped, you’ll take it and you’ll like it.” Curiously, it is only when Spade is slapped and cannot reciprocate the action, does violence become a problem. This too highlights Sam’s dominant personality.

Sam Spade clearly is struggling with some issues in this passage and throughout the novel. I think that Spade has been betrayed by someone he trusted in his past, possibly an authority figure, and that is why he is so independent and mistrusting of others. Betrayal is quite evident throughout the plot as he refuses to trust Brigid, Cairo, or the policemen who he seems to be friendly with, and also continuously betrays Effie Perine, Iva Archer, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, each of whom believe to have some kind of romantic relationship with Sam Spade.

Spade controls his love triangle as he controls his business: quietly and by himself. When dealing with clients or business partners he keeps his emotions to himself and calculates what he says and how he says it very precisely. He relies on no allies and has himself as the main priority in any situation. As the plot evolves, we see Sam Spade become increasingly more temperamental. He dishes out violence and harsh words at an intensifying rate. Clearly, Sam Spade would rather be the bully than the bullied and I think that this is because of betrayal from a past relationship or event in his life.

Reaction Paper 2

“What is the matter?” he asked. “Has anything happened? You oughtn’t to be here at this time of night”. “ I am beginning to believe that she complained, you told me I oughtn’t to come to the office, and now I oughtn’t to come here. Do you mean I oughtn’t to chase after you?” p.59

When reading this passage I felt bad for Iva because she is making such an effort to reach out to Spade yet he is just playing her in return. In this situation, Brigid O’Shansouy is waiting inside for him and he is rushing off to her, which shows that he would rather be with her than Iva. I realized that there is also a lot of repetition in this passage, Spade says “ oughtn’t” a lot and she uses it against him. When Spade is asking her all these questions he is trying to seem sincere, but when she says “oughtn’t” she is rubbing in his face the fact that he is controlling. Spade is telling her she can’t do this or she cant do that and she is realizing that. Spade is trying to protect Iva and she rejects the protection and takes offense instead. Another repetition that I saw was when Spade continuously asks if anything is wrong and if she is ok. That shows that even if he has other priorities he may still have some feelings for her and that he does care.

I think this passage is really about this time period. It is a time period where the men have most rights and feel that they are superior to women. At the same time Spade is showing how he is playing women but also trying to look after them. Also it could be saying that there are gangs or other related violent people in that area or around late at night because Spade said “ you oughtn’t to be here at this time of night”. This is suggesting that women are the targets in an area like this, late at night and that she is not safe by herself. This also suggests that there isn’t much protection of police officers or other officials. This passage also gives a sense of mystery because it makes you curious as to what Iva had to tell him and why she keeps chasing him. There is something that is pulling her towards him and I think it is the sense of security that she feels when she is around him.

This connects to the book as a whole because throughout this book, Spade is distracted when talking to each person, and always has a lot on his mind. In this scene, the boy following them and his desire to return to Brigid O’Shansouy distracts Spade.  Also throughout the book Iva shows a sense of jealousy over all of the women that Spade interacts with. She wants to be the one he chooses and his main priority and this shows that it’s upsetting her that she is not his main concern.

Spade seems to care more about getting information out of Iva over the fact of if she is truly ok or not. He lets her drive away and does not stop her and at the same time questions her intentions of being at his apartment. This connects to the book in general because when he does not let her in, she resorts to other things and lets her jealousy get the best of her. Throughout this book Iva is a character who needs someone to lean on while Spade is the strong character always in control of the situation and is the go to person.

Reaction paper#2

This time I want to focus on a conversation between Brigid and Spade from chapter 8. From the conversation, I think the real personality of Brigid begins to reveal. The author uses a cluster of similar expression to describe Brigid’s tone and manner such as “She twisted her head around to smile up at him with playful insolence”(page 84), “Mockery rippled in a smile on her face” and “she smiled impudently”. All these sentences indicate her lively side instead of being a demure lady. Maybe that’s because she’s getting more and more familiar with Spade therefore she can unfold herself without reservation before his eyes. As the case develops, the relationship between Spade and Brigid becomes even more complicated: they have also become intimate in private life beyond simple detective-client mode. On page 87, Spade pointed out her fear towards Cairo: “’I can understand your being afraid of Cairo,’ Spade said. ‘ He’s out of your reach.’ ‘And you aren’t?’ ’ Not that way,’ he said and grinned.” The ambiguous respond from Spade disturbs Brigid’s mind therefore “She blushed.” And that’s the sentence that triggers Brigid to tell Spade more information about the falcon putting aside the authenticity of what she provides. His remark is a statement that says “I am within your reach” from another way to interpret, which makes a commitment to Brigid ensuring her to rely on him with a sense of security. This dialogue also implies further development of their relationship (mostly physically) which can be confirmed in the following passage. Although Spade seems to be more amiable to Brigid than usual, he still prevails in the confrontation with her. Spade is quite “unpredictable” to her (“’You’re altogether unpredictable, ‘she murmured. “Page 84.) and Spade also acknowledges this point.(“Yes, and wild and unpredictable.” Page86.) He responded to this comment with witticism: “My way of learning is to heave a wild and unpredictable monkey-wrench into the machinery. It’s all right with me, if you’re sure none of the flying pieces will hurt you.”, a reply exactly demonstrating his unpredictability. Compared with Brigid, Spade always acted as nonchalant and flippant. Like “For several minute they ate in silence, he phlegmatically, she thoughtfully. “and “His voice was good-humored.” while she being “her gaiety vanished’ and “Spade studied her anxious face”. The contrast between attitude of Spade and that of Brigid creates a dramatic contradictory. Besides, the author uses lots of strong words to highlight Spade’s masculinity such as “domineering stare”, “squinted”, “scowled” and “demanded”. This chapter helps build Spade’s frivolous as well as tough image, by revealing how Brigid surrenders to Spade’s machismo, and it is a key point for their relationship since their affinity has burgeoned.

Reaction Paper #2

There are so many dishonest characters in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon that it becomes difficult to distinguish between who is on protagonist Sam Spade’s side and who is not. A good way to keep track of this is to realize that there is not one single person in the work who lives outside of San Francisco and is trustworthy. This fact combined with the repetitive reference by Spade to San Francisco being his town is extremely interesting to many because it suggests that outsiders are evil and unwanted which completely contradicts the basic principals upon which this country was created. When looked at closely it can be seen that nearly every conflict of the work results from the actions of one of three people: Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Joel Cairo, or Mr. Gutman; all three of which happen to be foreigners. From her several aliases to her habit of telling stories, Brigid O’Shaughnessy creates many problems for Spade, and even causes his partner, Mr. Archer, to be killed by yet another foreigner, Floyd Thursby. It is very clear to the reader that Joel Cairo is also an antagonist of the work from the moment he is introduced. The very first description that the audience receives of Cairo is Effie Perine’s statement, “This guy is queer.” It should also be noted that Mr. Gutman is not a San Francisco native and is, at this point in the plot Spade’s greatest threat. Also, the Maltese Falcon itself is a foreign artifact and is the source of all distress in the novel.

The interesting part of the issue of nationality actually is a little bit deeper from than the surface, and must be attained through close reading of the actual language of the text. All of the criminals in the work, with the exception of Thursby who is really just a pawn anyway and not necessarily a “bad guy,” are not described in a masculine way. Most obviously, O’Shaughnessy is a female and has many curves, which is in no way masculine. Joel Cairo is described in a very feminine way and also has zero angles, and Gutman is large and fat, which is also far from the idea of the time of what a man was. All three characters severely lack the angles and masculinity of Spade. Considering that this is a Film Noir era novel, it can be assumed that the absence of masculine qualities makes these characters evil and untrustworthy.

Going back to the idea of nationality, masculinity also plays a role in that. Through close reading it can be seen that everyone from San Francisco, including Spade’s beloved secretary Effie Perine with her “boyish face,” in some way portrays the idea of the man during the Film Noir era. Not coincidently Spade, the hero, trusts and relies on everyone from San Francisco for information and assistance, but cannot count on any foreigner to help him. Essentially every time that Spade tells the villains that they are in his town, and he will not be defeated on his own turf Hammett is commenting not only that, in accordance with the national insecurities of the time, the United States cannot and will not be defeated by outside forces, but also that the “macho man” is the ideal man and will always triumph over those who are not excessively masculine. By looking closely at the actual language of the work it is clear that The Maltese Falcon is about far more than simply murder and a bird; it is a bold commentary on the dominance of the United States over the world as well as that of the “real men” over femininity.