Discuss how either the use or misuse of the characteristics of crime fiction is appropriate for Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Though your question is quite clear, the term "crime fiction" is open to many interpretations. Ronald Knox codified the ten most important elements of a detective story in the 1920s; you can see them in the eNotes "innovations" link which I have attached below. The following list seems to be pretty standard for crime/detective fiction:

  • The detective must be memorable.
  • The crime must be significant.
  • The criminal must be a worthy opponent.
  • All suspects must be presented early in the story.
  • Every clue must be available to the reader as well as the detective.
  • The solution must be logical and obvious once it is revealed.

Philip Marlowe is certainly a memorable detective, though perhaps it is as much for his "campy" outrageousness than for his detective work. Quotes like the following almost suggest a parody of the memorable detective:

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” 

“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.” 

The crime, Moose Malloy's murder of a club manager, does not seem to meet the standard of "significant" (except to the dead man), but this is, of course, a subjective assessment. The fact that he commits more than one murder may or may not increase the significance of his crimes. 

Moose Malloy is "a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck," and he does not seem to meet the standard of "worthy opponent, since he spends much of the novel in hiding. Again, though, this is subjective.

We do not meet all of the major players in the story early on, though we do hear about them if we do not meet them.

The last two elements, knowing all the clues and an obvious solution, are again debatable. The acts attributed to Moose Malloy certainly seem rather obvious because of Malloy's size, but other details are more obtuse.

Given these standards, it seems that Raymond Chandler has played a bit "fast and loose" with the genre of crime/detective fiction. While he does not "misuse" them, he does seem to spoof them a bit; this suggests a kind of parody of the form. 

One added element to this assessment is the fact that this is a novel pieced together from three short stories; this suggests that the genre form is not as important to him as the characters and story Chandler wants to create. 

Sources:

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