The Modernism Philosophy in ‘The Big Sleep’

The novel, ‘The Big Sleep’, was written back in the year 1939 by Raymond Chandler. The piece has been termed as a hard boiled crime novel whereby several instances of crime have been presented. Of all the common themes presented in the novel, modernism is one of the most prominent one whereby crime has engulfed its development. Modernism in the novel has been presented in different perspectives. The novel’s themes, characters and plot have all been involved in presenting the philosophy of modernism. The presentation of the modernism philosophy in the novel is more practical because the scenes of the journey towards modernism are the same scenes that are experienced in the real world situation. Therefore, modernism is a concept that is important to the past, current and future developments in the society. The essay aims at analyzing the presentation of the philosophy of modernism in the novel ‘The Big Sleep’ by illustrating the way that it has been presented through the characters and happenings in the novel.

Modernism is defined as a philosophical movement that seeks cultural trends and changes. The changes in culture are generally based on the westernization principle that involves the way people live and interact with one another. In the real world presentation, modernism met a great revolution in the nineteenth and twentieth century. It covers area such as the forms of art, architecture, literature, philosophy, social organization, science and the day to day activities that one engages in among many other arenas. In fact, it the book depicts the theme of modernism under the basis that one must create their own system of living and for one of the characters, Marlow, living the life code was the best way. The social injustices are termed as anti-modernism factors that derailed the journey towards the realization of modernism philosophy. In addition, modernism is much widely presented in the characters presented in a given society setting. Therefore, these aspects of modernism have been presented in the novel ‘the Big Sleep’ in an illustrative way.


Most importantly, it can be inferred that modernism highlights that if there is no force that dictates rules, then people ought to create their own. There are several incidences in the novel that clearly depict modernism whereby many social injustices including blackmailing are happening. The injustices presented in the novel are reflected in the words of lamenting that Marlowe states. He says that “They are nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men. And their perfume has the rotten sweetness of a prostitute”. The injustices present in the plot of the book also include the corruption cases in places of work. The general says that he was fired as a result of in capacitance at his place of work. “I was fired. For insubordination, I test very high on insubordination”. These injustices cases reflected how the society presented in the novel undermined the modernism philosophy by not adhering to the expected social norms. The injustices were a great setback in the realization of modernism. Therefore, the novel creates a demanding environment for the maintenance of justice hence the realization of modernism.

The title given to the novel also has a symbolic meaning of the modernism status in the novel. The title ‘The Big Sleep’ symbolically means that a part in the journey towards the realization of modernism is dormant. It reflects the society whereby the novel has been set in with an aim of reviving the realization of the philosophy of modernism. In addition, this title is helps in determining the importance of modernism process to the society. By terming the current situation as the big sleep means that the society is not a subject to development under the social injustices present. Therefore, for a developing society social morals must be upheld hence promoting modernism philosophy.

The characters used in the novel also present the current state of modernism. Marlowe is presented as the novel’s main character whereby he has been presented to be more opportunistic in trying to achieve modernism states in the novel. In fact, it is stated that “Marlowe’s world abounds in comparisons to the common objectives of daily life in Los Angeles”. Marlowe is presented as a humble detective with a big urge to realize the modernistic levels in the novels society. However, his attempts are in vain because of the general ignorance of the people in the novel’s setting. Marlowe was attempting to illustrate that people in the society ought to abide by the code. That is a clear depiction of one of the most prominent aspects of modernism, code. Modernism requires people to do things willingly and with all their hearts. The lack of cooperation among the people being interrogated creates an underdevelopment factor that undermines the realization of modernism.

Chandler has constantly used the metaphoric approach in the novel to present females in attempts to show that there is a need to develop the modernism concept. Women in the novel are mistreated undermining their diversification in most of the activities. This shows that gender inequality is rampant in the novel. For a modernized society gender equality must be observed. Gender inequality is illustrated in various scenes. A good example of social injustice is that involving Mona Mars who is on a mission to find out the whereabouts of her husband but ends up being harassed and that clearly depicts that there is complete loss of faith in the modern world. This incidence is a clear illustration that women in the novel are denied their freedom. Another good example is that of Regan’s Wife, Vivian, who faces mistreatment from her husband and Eddie Mars Casino after owing him some money after gambling. However, Marlowe comes to her rescue. Moreover, several ladies have faced mistreatment from the same gangster. This slows down the realization of the philosophy of modernism.

Chandler has involved people with efforts to achieve modernism in the novel. Marlowe is presented as the main character who tries to fight back for social justice in the novel’s society. He is a humble detective who fights the injustices in a society full of corruption activities. Presence of gangs and greedy individuals serves as a main setback in his work. However, he consistently fights for social justice. The realization of social justice in the novel’s society would uplift the standards of modernism hence creation of a better society.

Efforts by Marlowe range from freeing women from mistreatment to investigating major crimes of cartels. For example, Marlowe courageously approaches Geiger who is the leader of a cartel. Geiger is an individual who is feared by the society because of his financial superiority. Geiger had committed several crimes and tried to cover them up by situations around him. The statement, “somebody got gunned by Geiger, who ran away. Or it was two other fellows. Or Geiger was running a cult and made blood sacrifices in front of that totem pole. Or he had chicken for dinner and liked to kill his chickens in the front parlor” shows the superiority that engulfed Geiger. However, in an attempt to enhance the philosophy of modernism, Marlowe courageously digs into Geiger’s cases with an aim to find justice. Therefore, Marlowe attempts to restore modernism in the novel are significant.

Marlowe also shows his attempts to restore modernism by forming his private detective body. This creates a more conducive environment to fight injustices because the private nature of his detective job makes it to be full of integrity. Modernism is most likely to be achieved through the independence of the Marlowe. This is because the truth will be upheld. Therefore, modernism realization is defined as an individual task to be performed by every member of the society.

Marlowe attempts to save the female gender are significant because they aim at the good of the society. Carmen and her sister Vivian are two ladies in the novel who degrade the integrity of females. They have been grown up in a careless manner by their father making them to be spoilt. There is a need for people to assist one another especially in restoration of what they have lost throughout their life. Although he faces some challenges, his efforts achieve minimal achievements. Therefore, the process of rescuing the females from degrading themselves in the society by Marlowe could help in restoring the state of modernism in the society. Marlowe’s life leaves a clear modernism question that what does his independent and private engagements lead to. Even though Marlowe was fighting tirelessly for social justice, he lived a simple life with very small expenses. Marlowe is committed to assist people around him. He believes in handling and solving all the issues in the society despite the lengths that he would go to settle them. This life by Marlowe shows the foundation efforts to achieve the philosophy of modernism in the novel’s society. Therefore, the novel widely covers the modernism theme through the trait of Marlowe.

In conclusion, the book ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler is a crucial book in sensitizing its audience on the need for a modernized society. The novel presents the advantages of a modernized society whereby Chandler states that a modernized society is free from social injustices. In addition, such a society experiences quick development through initialization of constructive programs. Marlowe is among the elemental characters in the novel that help to relay the philosophy of modernism message in the novel.

Related essays