Reaction Paper 2

“She lifted her cup to her lips again. Spade, not moving the domineering stare of his yellow-grey eyes from her face, began to make a cigarette.”(87)

As the quest to obtain the Maltese Falcon continues on, Sam Spade develops and evolves into a whole new class of masculinity. Spade always came off as manly with his “V” shaped face and body and his suave personality, but now, he has turned into a whole new beast, literally. The domineering stare of his eyes, yellow, just like those of a falcon, show that he isn’t playing around anymore. Spade is getting down to business in the most efficient way possible at any cost.

This trend of yellow eyes continues as Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy are getting intimate. Yet again, Spade is taking control of the situation and, at any cost, getting what he wants. As his eyes begin to “burn yellowly”, it is clear that he has the power, and he is dominant, just like a falcon is (89). Spade has taken a new approach to getting this job done and as the people around him change and develop, he manages to as well.

A falcon is a predator of the sky. As it flies high above the ground it uses its yellow eyes to seek out and attack its prey. Sam Spade is a falcon. As he enters the lobby of the hotel in search of Cairo, he spots instead the boy who had been tailing him. At this point, “points of yellow light begin to dance in his eyes” (93). Spade has found his prey. Without hesitation, he approaches the boy and makes his intentions clear; he is not messing around.

As the novel heats up and the characters of San Francisco develop and change, often for the worst, Sam Spade’s inner falcon comes out in order for him to complete the task at hand at whatever the cost.


“When he had finished he made and drank a cup of coffee. Then he unlocked the kitchen-window, scarred the edge of its lock a little with his pocket-knife, opened the window–over a fire escape–got his hat and overcoat from the settee in the living-room, and left the apartment as he had come.” (Page 91, 3rd Paragraph)


This passage occurs the morning after Brigid O’Shaughnessy stayed with Sam Spade as a result of his deceit. Though she had intended to leave the evening prior, he convinced her it was not safe to travel, tricking her into staying with him. While she slept, Spade removed her apartment key from her pocket and gained access to her home. His plan was to thoroughly search for the falcon while not alerting her to his presence in her home. To ensure she would not place the blame of searching her apartment on him, he took extra precautions to stage her apartment to appear it had been broken into. He opened the window over the fire escape and intentionally scarred the lock. By doing this, he knew Brigid would assume the scarred lock meant forced entry and the fire escape would have been the route the perpetrator had taken, drawing the suspicion away from him.

The underlying message of this passage is that Sam Spade is motivated by egocentrism. It was the main motivating factor that drove Sam Spade to deceive Brigid and go to her apartment with hopes of uncovering the falcon. Once he found out that there were others in search of the falcon, his desire to be the first to locate this highly sought after object increased. If he found it, others would recognize his superior investigative abilities and would be willing to bargain with him for possession of the falcon. He would gain recognition for his expertise. The second way this passage exemplifies Spade’s selfish desires is through his actions with Brigid. At the beginning of the novel, he accepted Brigid’s case both because she acted terribly upset and helpless when she first entered his office and because he found her attractive. He realized that taking her case would place the two of them in closer proximity. Preceding the above excerpt, Brigid had kissed Spade. She then stayed over night with him, having been manipulated to believe Sam cared for her well-being, when in actuality, he persuaded her to stay because he knew that if a kiss had already been initiated, there might be further relations. He also plotted to take her key and investigate further while she slept, having lured her into falsely believing his intentions were to keep her safe. This passage clearly demonstrates that this was false: Sam’s intentions were purely selfish, to gain both the falcon and notoriety and respect.

Spade’s Outburst

“’I distrust a man that says when’…’I distrust a close-mouthed man.’”

“’Ah, Mr. Spade,’ he said with enthusiasm…Spade took the hand and smiled.”

“’You’re the man for me, sir, a man cut along my own lines.’”

“The fat man’s eyes were dark gleams in ambush behind pink puffs of flesh.”

“Then Spade rose and stood close to the fat man, looking down at him, and Spade’s eyes were hard and bright. His voice was deliberate, challenging: ‘Here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.’”

“’You see,’ he said blandly, ‘I must tell you what I know, but you will not tell me what you know. That is hardly equitable, sir. No, no, I do not think we can do business along those lines.’” (quotes from p. 105-109)


These quotes are taken from the first meeting between Gutman and Spade. The scene features the two men discussing the Maltese Falcon and the mystery surrounding it. One feature of the passage that stands out is the repetition of the word “distrust,” and the proximity of the related word “ambush.” Words such as these are jarring in the otherwise cordial conversation between Gutman and Spade. The contrast between which words are used and how they are used gives a good impression of the underlying tension in the passage, a tension that builds throughout the entire encounter. In the beginning of the passage, the words used to describe Spade and Gutman are pleasant: Gutman is enthusiastic and Spade smiles. As the passage progresses, the conversation between Gutman and Spade shifts from outwardly happy to merely polite, with phrases such as “politely attentive” used to describe Spade. Finally, Spade’s voice is described as “deliberate” and “challenging” while repeating Gutman’s mantra about “plain speaking and clear understanding.” The words used in the passage trace the breakdown of civil communication between Spade and Gutman, culminating in the sudden explosion of Spade’s temper at the end.

Another significant element of the passage is the repetition of the word “line.” Early on in the conversation, Gutman calls Spade “a man cut along my own lines.” This is a very ironic statement, since Gutman’s rolls of fat are nothing like Spade’s hard lines. The passage ends with Gutman saying to Spade “I do not think we can do business along those lines.” The concept of being along certain lines puts the underlying tension of the passage into words. Both Spade and Gutman have established certain boundaries, or lines, that neither will cross, from forced civility into a more authentic sense of hostility. The fact that Spade’s outburst directly follows the word “line” suggests that Gutman has crossed one of these unspoken lines, bringing the true tone of the conversation into the forefront.

By examining the conversation around Spade’s outburst, we can deduce the reason for his loss of temper. The comment that appears to set Spade off is the suggestion that he is not being fair—that the business agreement he is developing with Gutman is not “equitable.” If we look farther back in the story, Spade says to Brigid that he “doesn’t like being hit without hitting back.” This indicates a desire on Spade’s part to be on even footing with others, a trait that he prides himself on. When Gutman suggests that Spade is not being fair, he crosses a line. Spade’s pride is wounded, and he responds by shattering the tension of the scene.

Connection Between Identity and Masculinity

“Spade’s yellow-grey eyes were somber. His face wooden, with a trace of sullenness around the mouth. Cario’s face was twisted by pain and chagrin. There were tears in his dark eyes. His skin was the complexion of polished lead except where the elbow had reddened his cheek.” (46)

The deep contrast between Sam Spade and Joel Cairo displays a battle between masculinity and identity. Cairo exemplifies a character without masculinity. He shows emotion and that he can be defeated: “chagrin. There were tears in his dark eyes”(46). Tears show a sign of weakness but also present a degree of humanity. While Cairo may have first appeared to be in control his strength or “polished lead” was merely a “complexion”(46). Spade was able to wipe away his painted mask and uncover Cairo’s his true face. Without a mask, Cairo’s personality is readable and gives him his own identity. Cairo’s individuality is seen as negative because of its femininity and humanity.

In order for Spade to continue to be seen as masculine, he must have a mask or make “his face wooden”(46). Feelings can be read as limitation and therefore are not seen by others. Hammett gives a glimpse of Spade’s internal struggles of masculinity and identity through the description of “sullenness around the mouth” and his “somber” eyes (46). Spade’s yellow-grey eyes represent his pride of being in control but embody the animalistic personality of Spade. The eyes and mouth are the only evidence of sentiment. The image of Spade’s mask is similar to that of the fat man: “his face was a watchful-eyed smiling mask held up between his thoughts and Spade’s”(109). While the man begins to show his emotions he safeguards himself with a wall between Spade and himself. His eyes are the only evidence of feeling.  Although both men are showing strength, masculinity and control, the two characters are so similar they could be interchangeable. They hide behind a wall disguising their personalities and individualism. Hammett expresses that to be masculine means to be in control, to remain mysterious and lack a true identity.

Reaction Paper 1

“I think I’d rather die than that, Mr. Spade. I can’t explain now, but can’t you somehow manage so that you can shield me from them, so I won’t have to answer their questions? I don’t think I could stand being questioned now. I think I would rather die. Can’t you, Mr. Spade?” (Maltese Falcon 35)

This excerpt from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon exemplifies Ms. Brigid O’Shaughnessy’s personality traits when she is suddenly immersed in the chaos of the detective lifestyle. Brigid’s excessive repetition of “you” and “Mr. Spade” shows her dependency on her detective, Sam Spade, and his ability to help her situation. Along with her repetition, the strands of words also express her need for Spade to “shield” (35) her from the interrogations she would have to face otherwise. The doubling of the words, “think” (35) and “question(s)” (35), add to her desperation while also calling into question her ability to think a situation through for herself.

These undermining portrayals of Brigid are further explained by her interactions with Sam Spade as the novel progresses. Her conversation with Spade about Thursby’s murder epitomizes her helplessness in the situation. Brigid’s use of “I don’t know” (38-39) correlates to her trouble expressing her problems while also relating back to her dependency on Spade’s assistance. In addition, when Spade explains: “this is hopeless […] I don’t even know if you know what you want”(39), he communicates the magnitude of the problem caused by her building dependency. Spade’s reaction is one that has escalated from foundations set from O’Shaughnessy’s previous aliases to her complete “[hopelessness]”(39) in asking for “[him] to somehow manage so that he can shield [her] from [the police]” (35). Brigid’s indecisiveness leads us to see just how desperate she is for Spade’s help. Her lack of knowledge on the situation shows how helpless she is without the direction that she is seeking from Spade.

Brigid clearly explains how she would do anything to stay away from the police by saying, “I would rather die than that” (35). Although, one binary is that Brigid goes to the extreme of dying while asking for help to avoid confrontation. She goes on to beg Spade to “shield [her] from [the police]” (35) when the typical thief would give in to death before asking for help. This aids to the opposite, within the passage, O’Shaughnessy asks Spade to “manage” (35) it so she will not have to speak with the police. Interestingly enough, although the word “manage” is used in this passage, nothing within the quote relates, or even hints, to being regulated by either person involved. Brigid’s use of the word “manage” (35) is connected to her desire for her situation to be handled by Spade.

Be that as it may, although Brigid’s attitude along with personality seems to be compromising, her actions may foreshadow events to come, not only regarding her future but the future of the Maltese Falcon as well. Since she is the only person who is in control of collecting the falcon, Brigid O’Shaughnessy could be a symbol for the Maltese Falcon. Her mysterious and confusing personality parallels that of the falcon. The fact that there is no straight answer in the midst of a web of lies connects Brigid and the Falcon symbolically.  The fact that Brigid is so stationary in her actions are similar to the Falcon in that they are both in a compromising position that neither of them wants to be involved in. Both Brigid and the Falcon are pawns in this detective game. Brigid was an accomplice to Floyd Thursby’s bird-napping, she was not the thief, she was terrified for her life, forcing her to go along with him. Much like Brigid, the falcon did not want to go away with Thursby, it was scared for its life, therefore had no option. The parallels between Brigid and the falcon, I would say, go deep enough to say they are connected on some level. Whether it be with the situation or personally, I believe there is a connection. 

Reaction Paper 1

“Cairo’s face was darkened by a flush of annoyance. He put an ugly hand on wither arm of his chair, holding his small-boned body erect and stiff between them. His dark eyes were angry. He did not say anything” (Page 67)

As the mood switches and the power within the situation shifts from Cairo’s hands to Spade’s hands, Cairo’s visage drastically changes. From a once smooth and sultry, effeminate man, Cairo is turned into what seems to be an old, evil, angry, almost witch-like character. When Cairo had the power, he carried himself in a way that most would describe as over confident or cocky. Now that the power has been taken away from him, his face had been darkened, his hands were now weak and ugly, and his small body was stiff along the chair, just as would be the case for a witch.

Within this moment in the story, darkness is a repeated theme. Cairo’s face was dark, his eyes were dark, and in turn, his personality was dark. This shift towards darkness may mean that the story is now delving into the darkness that it may entail. Perhaps the dark pasts of the people of San Francisco are going to come forward, and perhaps people are no longer going to be willing to ask nicely to get what they want. Maybe Cairo is no longer going to beat around the bush with his demands and is now going to strive to get what he wants at any cost.

As the story progresses and the amount of drama builds up, the initial beauty wears away as the true colors of the people of San Francisco come into play. Sam no longer seems like the flawless ideal of a man, Brigid O’Shaughnessy no longer has the innocence that she once had, and Joel Cairo no longer has the power, the flash, or the confidence that he originally portrays. This, perhaps, could lead the story into the many twists, turns, and red herrings that most mysteries often have.

Maltese Writing

Gillian Horn


For the Extended Close Reading, I chose the passage on page 47, “Spade emptied the unconscious man’s pockets one by one, working methodically, moving the lax body when necessary, making a pile of the pockets’ contents on the desk…..” This passage is written after Cairo is knocked out by Spade. Cairo is lying on the ground unconscious, and Spade brings him up to a chair and sits him down. He goes straight to the pockets and starts to investigate. After he goes through the wallet, he takes what he finds and he goes to his desk and lights a cigarette and examines what he finds. He is very casual about what happens. I believe he seems very casual about this because it says he began to examine his spoils and he examined them with unhurried thoroughness. Rather than being worried about the unconscious man, he simply ignores him and makes his way right to his desk to get comfortable and smoke while he examines the things in the man’s pocket that he casually takes out.

Spade throughout the book shows this kind of action of being so laid back when it comes to comes across with other people. Clearly here it may not be so laid back to begin with, but he approaches things professionally with Cairo and he knows how to handle his suspects and his subjects while getting what he needs. Cairo is clearly frightened now about how much Spade can do and the threat that he may have on him now after beating him up.

One could say from the book so far, that spade would be described as a clever, BI polar, genius detective. He has methods of discovering things that will often help him but also hurt him. Most things for him are easy to work out, but he needs to put in the patience and it will be solved. he does lack patience, but he has many other qualities that take the place for that. He shows how aware and how simple he makes things when they are complicated through his encounter with Cairo. Clearly Cairo could’ve been very dangerous towards Spade, but Spade knew how to control the situation before it could get any more violent.

Reaction Paper 1

Deanna Ballard

Professor Kersh



Reaction Paper #1


“She was tall and pliantly slender, without angularity anywhere. Her body was erect and high-breasted, her legs long, her hands and feet narrow. She wore two shades of blue that had been selected because of her eyes. The hair curling from under her blue hat was darkly red, her full lips more brightly red. White teeth glistened in the crescent her timid smile made.” The Maltese Falcon Page 4

Dashiell Hammett uses very vivid, highly descriptive language when introducing his characters. The intense imagery he uses provides the reader with both a very detailed mental image of the character and a few hints about what the character’s personality is like.

In this specific passage, Hammett is introducing Miss Wonderly and describing her physical appearance in great detail, as he always does. This passage stands out not due to  the vivid imagery he uses, but from the sharp contrast to his description of her person, (her build, smile and voice from the previous passage). The description of her person, details about herself that she can not control, paint a picture of a very slight, quiet and potentially shy individual, whereas the description of her appearance, (her clothes, hair and makeup), details about herself that she can control, are very bold and suggest a strong, confident woman.

This sharp contrast between Miss Wonderly’s person and her appearance are indicative of a difference in the person she is on the inside and the person she wants to be viewed as from the outside. The discrepancy she creates implies that she has something to hide or is dishonest. Secrecy ties in nicely with the double murder mystery that is unfolding in front of us and suggests that other “facts” we’ve learned thus far in the story may not be true after all or that there is something else entirely going on.

Later in the story (pg 33), we find out that “Miss Wonderly” is actually Brigid O’Shaughnessy and that she is in fact hiding something. Hammett creating his female character to be this contradictory, dishonest creature was a result of the time this book was written in. This was an era of tension between the sexes; women were taking jobs that used to be done by men. As this progressed, men began to question their masculinity and what it meant to be a real man, so Hammett could not create a strong, trustworthy woman character that would compromise the masculinity of his male characters.


“Effie Perine sat up straight and said, ‘Sam, if that girl’s in trouble and you let her down, or take advantage of it to bleed her, I’ll never forgive you, never have any respect for you, as long as I live.’ Spade smiled unnaturally.  Then he frowned.  The frown was unnatural.”(42)

Spade’s reaction to Effie’s statement is very revealing of the way he uses facial expressions as instruments to mask his true intentions in social situations and to manipulate others through their subconscious reactions.  His unnatural smile at the mention of bleeding O’Shaughnessy is meant to invoke a feeling of sincerity and honesty while covering his actual intention, to acquire as much money as possible from this case.  He does something similar when he first meets O’Shaughnessy for the first time.  As she speaks, he is supposedly “integrating smiles and nods”(7) in order to give her a sense of “assurance.”  In both instances, Spade is using fake smiles to convey a sense of honesty.  Spade hides his intentions through his facial expressions, such as when he is speaking to O’shaughnessy in her apartment.  When it says that “the upper part of his face frowned.  The lower part smiled,”(33) Spade is trying to hide his feelings from O’shaughnessy because he doesn’t want her to know how he feels about her or the case.  His creation of such an unreadable facial expression is a clear indicator of his unwillingness to reveal even the smallest iota of his inner workings; he does not want to express a positive or negative emotion that would give his thoughts away, thus his fusion of both a “frown” and a “smile.”  Spade’s smile is a finely crafted instrument that allows him to mask his true emotions, allows him to invoke false feelings of confidence in others, and allows him to hide his intentions from anyone who would stand in his way.  Spade is an accomplished detective and he uses all tools at his disposal, including ones that allow him to both gather information from others and keep others from gaining information about him.

“Spade laughed a harsh syllable, “Ha!” and went to the buff-curtained window. He stood there with his back to her looking through the curtain into the court until she started towards him. Then he turned quickly and went to his desk…His yellowish eyes glittered between narrowed lids.” -bottom of Page 25

The passage starts off with Spade scoffing at the the idea that Iva has presented to Spade. Did he kill Miles? From this reaction, Spade gives off an attitude of an offended stranger. “How dare you think of me like that? Do you even know me?” This reaction almost signifies that Spade thinks that he is too good to kill Miles. What was the benefit? They’re partners, at least they were. However, the latter part of the sentence hints at the possibility that Spade could indeed have committed the aforementioned crime.

Spade then walks to the buff-curtained windows. The curtains covers the windows. Windows by nature behave similarly to a mirror in that it reflects the image in front of it. Is Spade not able to face himself? Why? Because he knew what happened or is it because Iva is in the room? Whatever the answer may be, he ponders this while his back faces Iva until she walks towards him. Spade responds by quickly dashing towards his desk. As we can see, Spade is acting contrary to his usual behavior. He is avoiding Iva and/or hiding something from her. Perhaps gender plays a role in this situation. With men, Spade is the all mighty sarcastic jerk that does what he wants, but with woman, he completely crumbles. In a sense, he is a “glass cannon” in front of a woman. He is able to dish out retorts but is not able to take in successive attacks of questioning; he “breaks” under this pressure.

“His eyes glittered between narrow lids.” Eureka! The shine from his iris indicates that he has thought of a way to combat the frontal attack he is facing. And that is going to back to how he deals with people best; by being a jerk.