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What is so interesting about this novel is the way that a new kind of detective hero is created who is shown to be so distinctly unlike previous detective heroes such as Sherlock Holmes. Philip Marlowe is described as a gritty, real and deeply flawed human individual, and the technique of having him as a first person narrator only serves to highlight this impression of his character and the extent to which he is such a departure from the stereotypical detective figure. Note, for example, how he describes himself in Chapter 1:
I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks and dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
The attention to detail is interesting, particularly when it is accompanied by the phrase "I didn't care who knew it." This suggests that normally he would be bothered if he was viewed as "neat, clean, shaved and sober," which therefore indicates he is normally dishevelled, unshaven and drunk. As the novel progresses, the reader sees that he drinks during the day, he is sexually frustrated and he, at times, is happy to be violent towards women. Marlowe is therefore not presented as a force for good in the traditional way. By contrast, he is presented as an anti-hero, who tries to do good but at the same time reveals himself to be a deeply flawed character. He is presented as a kind of modern day knight doing his best to challenge injustice but aware of his own character failings. This is what makes this novel such a departure, in some ways, from the traditional genre of detective fiction.
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