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.

One thought on “Monkey Wrenched”

  1. This prompted me to peruse about half of The Drowning Pool – 133 pages or so – to see how many similes I could count. (I’m using the Vintage Crime Black Lizard edition from May 1996). I counted thirty four and no doubt missed a few. (REVISION 11/30/14: The number is much higher. Going back over the work a second and third time I see I missed a lot in my initial sweep.) I haven’t done the legwork, but I think some of the later books might have a slightly higher ratio. That’s a lot, but in any case I would argue that many of Macdonald’s similes are so strong that they infinitely enrich the work. Not only that – they are so strong that they put many “serious” writers of fiction to shame.

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