Raymond Chandler American Literature Analysis
In May, 1948, in an article in Harper’s magazine titled “The Guilty Vicarage,” W. H. Auden wrote, “Chandler is interested in writing, not detective stories, but serious studies of a criminal milieu, the Great Wrong Place, and his powerful but extremely depressing books should be read and judged, not as escape literature, but as works of art.” This assessment pleased Chandler, for it confirmed that he had moved detective fiction toward the realm of literature.
Chandler’s education in an English public school taught him high standards for writing. It also left him with a distinctly British writing style. In the five years he worked for Black Mask magazine, Chandler taught himself to write in the voice of the American vernacular. He both transmitted and invented colloquialisms. Chandler’s hero, Philip Marlowe, the narrator of all seven of Chandler’s novels, speaks in colorful slang that captures and holds the reader’s interest. He is famous for his startling similes, such as the one at the beginning of Farewell, My Lovely in which he describes the thug Moose Malloy: “He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.”
Mystery stories often rely on dramatic irony—that is, the reader knows something that the detective does not know. Chandler sets himself a difficult problem when he makes Marlowe the narrator, because the reader cannot have any knowledge of events that occur...
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