Dashiell Hammettâ€™s novel, The Maltese Falcon, is a hard-boiled detective novel; a subset of the mystery genre. Before the appearance of this sub-genre, mystery novels were mainly dominated by unrealistic cases and detectives like Conan Doyleâ€™s Sherlock Holmes. As Malmgren states, â€œThe murders in these stories are implausibly motivated, the plots completely artificial, and the characters pathetically two-dimensional, puppets and cardboard lovers, and paper mache villains and detectives of exquisite and impossible gentility.â€ (Malmgren, 371) On the other hand, Hammett tried to write realistic mystery fiction â€“ the â€œhard-boiledâ€ genre.
In the Maltese Falcon, Hammett uses language, symbolism, and characterization to bring the story closer to reality.The Maltese Falcon is written in a casual tone filled with colloquialisms in a clipped laconic style from an objective point of view. In the novel, Hammett used a lot of slang that are specific to one social group: the underworld criminals, and the police & detectives who dealt with them. For example, when Spade is being accused by the police for killing his partner, Miles Archer, he said:You oughtnâ€™t try to pin more than one murder at a time on me. Your first idea that I knocked Thursby a character who is murdered near the beginning of the novel off because he killed Miles falls apart if you blame me for killing Miles, too â€¦ But suppose I did, you couldâ€™ve blipped â€?em both. (Hammett, 451)Words such as pin (accused), knock off (kill) and blip (kill) are widely known slang terms at the time, so incorporating them into speeches makes the characters more rough and realistic.
Hammett uses a clipped, laconic style which speeds the action along, controls emotion and limits clear access to characterâ€™s thoughts by the readers. For instance, when Brigid tries to bribe Spade into getting the Maltese Falcon for her, Spadeâ€™s only response is, â€œFive thousand dollars is a lot of moneyâ€ (Hammett, 57), which leaves both Brigid and the readers guessing at what Spade is thinking and what he means by that reply. When Brigid tries further to persuade Spade:â€œYou wonâ€™t â€“ you canâ€™t â€“ treat me like that.â€ Her eyes were cobalt-blue prayers.â€œFive thousand dollars is,â€ He said for the third time, â€œa lot of moneyâ€She lifted her shoulders and hands and let them fall.
â€œIt is,â€ she agreed in a small dull voice. â€œIt is far more than I could ever offer you, if I must bid for your loyalty.â€Spade laughed. His laughter was brief and somewhat bitter. â€œThat is good,â€ he said, â€œcoming from you.
â€ (Hammett, 57)this clipped, laconic style was considered to be highly realistic and appropriate around the time this work was written. Also, Hammettâ€™s â€œobjectiveâ€ point of view plays hand in hand with that literary style, such as how Spade is shown to be calmly rolling a cigarette after the news of Archerâ€™s death through pages 16 to 18; his feelings are unknown, but readers see his careful precise technique. The clipped, laconic and objective style puts emphasizes on objects and actions, allowing readers to decide for themselves the charactersâ€™ reactions and consciousness.
Coupled with the usage of real-life underworld slang, Hammett is able to bring this fiction closer to reality. Even disregarding the language and style, he also uses characters to symbolize events that have happened in the past, making their actions and decisions truer to life.Hammett uses the Maltese Falcon to show some of his perspective or opinions regarding the two World Wars. For example, Miles Archerâ€™s death near the beginning of the novel represents the many deaths of American troops who were victimized by the charm that fighting in a foreign war had; some people thought that this would a great adventure which can give them excitement and fame.
In Archerâ€™s case, he is lured by his greed for money and the beautiful Brigid as Spade points out, â€œBut heâ€™dâ€™ve gone up there with you, angel, if he was sure nobody was up there â€¦ He was just dumb enough for that. Heâ€™dâ€™ve looked you up and down and licked his lip and gone grinning from ear to ear â€“ and then you couldâ€™ve stood as close to him as you like and put a hole through him with the gun.â€ (Hammett, 209). Brigid symbolises Ireland, because in Hammettâ€™s opinion, Ireland manipulated Americans during World War II for her own benefits (Abrahams, 115). The boy Wilmer also corresponds to the American Finance Capitalism (AFC) while the fat Gutman represents to the British Empire who was almost immobilized by size (Abrahams,.