What  are the main themes in The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main themes in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep have to do with big-city corruption and the private detective as the modern-day knight errant. All kinds of immorality and outright wickedness flourish in big cities because the urban environment has always provided a cloak of anonymity. People are all strangers. Big cities and exciting and dangerous. Criminals flock or flee to big cities because they can blend in with the crowds. The police cannot hope to apprehend every lawbreaker because there are too many of them and too few police; and furthermore the police are often more or less corrupt themselves. The private detective is a lone wolf. He provides a personal service to individual clients and goes forth on a quest like a knight errant of old. He has a code of honor and pledges his loyalty to the man or woman he serves. As Raymond Chandler described him in “The Simple Art of Murder”: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”