School-Girl Act

“‘Will you stop it?’ he demanded in a low impatient voice. ‘This isn’t the spot for the school-girl act. Listen to me. The pair of us are sitting under the gallows.’ He took hold of her wrists and made her stand up straight in front of him. ‘Talk!'”

Hammett, The Maltese Falcon, page 209

At the end of the day, being good or bad doesn’t matter- you just have to talk and try to get out as clean as possible. Spade’s choice in the end wasn’t a good one, but it was done in cunning because he knew it was the only way for him to get out. Also, at a certain point, pretending to be good and innocent does not work- your actions come up to get you (except if you’re Spade).

Simple and Direct Truth

“I must say that you passed the test with flying colors, sir. It never occurred to me that you’d hit on such a simple and direct way of getting to the truth.”

– Hammett, The Maltese Falcon, 197

With this we see a direct telling of what morally drives Spade, which is the truth. However, it is how Spade tries to uncover the truth that makes his “goodness” brought into question. Ultimately, Spade exemplifies how good and bad are not concrete examples, and how his gritty American lifestyle makes him the morally confused hero he is.

A Bad Break

They shook hands and Luke said: “Say, that’s too bad about Miles.”

“Uh-huh, a bad break.” Spade jerked his head to indicate the boy on the divan beside him. “What do you let these cheap gunmen hang out in the lobby for, with their tools bulging their clothes?” (pg.95)

The quick change of subject makes him seem very uncaring, especially for someone that he was partners with. You’d think he’d at least say more about Miles or try to comment on it further, but instead, he just pivots to the current situation at hand.

the male gaze

“She was a blonde woman of a few more years than thirty. Her facial prettiness was perhaps five years past its best moment. Her body for all its sturdiness was finely modeled and exquisite. She wore black clothes from hat to shoes.”

Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon, page 25

The style focuses a lot on character descriptions, making sure the reader knows exactly what everyone in the narrative looks like. Taking it’s a detective story, this could be a way to show the way a detective may observe people, or this is just a way to show how the character Spade views women in particular as they are describe in different ways than the men in the novel.


“She’s so young and his bringing her here from New York is such a serious- Mightn’t he – mightn’t he do – something to her” (8)

-Hammett, The Maltese Falcon pg 8

Hammett’s use of dashes creates a pause in the scene to make the dialogue feel more real. Compared to commas, dashes create a harsher break in the sentence  to emphasize Ms. Wonderly’s fear and uncertainty.

Commonplacing Hammett 11/1/23

“Spade’s thick fingers made a cigarette with deliberate care, sifting a measured quantity of tan flakes down into curved paper, spreading the flakes so that they lay equal at the ends with a slight depression in the middle, thumbs rolling the paper’s inner edge down and up under the outer edge as forefingers pressed it over, thumbs and fingers sliding to the paper cylinder’s ends to hold it even while tongue licked the flap, left forefinger and thumb smoothed the damp seam, right forefinger and thumb twisting their end and lifting the other to Spade’s mouth.”

-Hammett, The Maltese Falcon pgs 11-12