What is the role of alcoholism in Farewell, My Lovely?

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Raymond Chandler, who was a notoriously heavy drinker, used liquor for various purposes in his novels, perhaps nowhere as much as in Farewell, My Lovely . When Marlowe goes to see Jessie Florian at her run-down home in Central Los Angeles, he brings along a pint bottle of bonded...

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Raymond Chandler, who was a notoriously heavy drinker, used liquor for various purposes in his novels, perhaps nowhere as much as in Farewell, My Lovely. When Marlowe goes to see Jessie Florian at her run-down home in Central Los Angeles, he brings along a pint bottle of bonded bourbon. She is obviously an alcoholic but can't always afford to buy a bottle. When Marlowe produces the best-quality bourbon:

The woman's eyes became fixed in an incredulous stare.

"You ain't no copper," she said softly. "No copper ever bought a drink of that stuff. What's the gag, mister?"

Marlowe lets her drink most of the pint bottle while he is trying to pump her for information. At one point she sets her empty whiskey glass on top of the card he gave her. Later Marlowe will find his card with the whiskey stain on the body of Lin Marriott, and it will lead the detective to deduce that Jessie Florian was getting paid off to keep silent about the identity of Helen Grayle, the former Velma Valento whom Moose Malloy is trying to find--and who is very comfortably married to a wealthy old man and definitely doesn't want to be found by Moose or anybody else..

Later Marlowe meets Helen Grayle at her mansion and they end up getting drunk together. She seems like a soul mate in at least one respect. She likes liquor as much as he does. She wants to have an affair with Marlowe, but their date doesn't come off until near the end of the novel, where he has set a trap to expose her as Velma to Moose Malloy.

In Chapter 25, Marlowe wakes up in a locked room in a sanitarium which appears to specialize in treating alcoholics. He was slugged over the head by two Bay City cops who checked him into the sanitarium, apparently as a warning to stay away from Bay City and to stop associating with Mrs. Grayle. The treatment for alcoholics appears to be to give them liquor laced with something that will make them retch.

I took a long untidy drink. I put the bottle down again, with infinite care. I tried to lick underneath my chin.

The whiskey had a funny taste. While I was realizing that it had a funny taste I saw a washbowl jammed into the corner of the wall. I made it. I just made it. Dizzy Dean never threw anything harder.

Farewell, My Lovely is Chandler's best novel, but it helped to give him the reputation of being a writer whose plots were nearly impossible to follow. Marlowe never explains how he got involved in the case in the first place. There is no fee involved, except for $100 he collects from Lin Marriott. In the end, Marlowe is still drinking as heavily as Anne Riordan will allow as he discusses the complex case at her Bay City home.

I finished my drink and got the thirsty look on my face again. She ignored it.

Chandler had such a drinking problem that he was probably writing from personal experience when he described the sanitarium where Marlowe was being kept a prisoner until he broke out. His hero Marlowe has the same bad habit. In Chandler's best-known novel, The Big Sleep, Marlowe buys a pint of whiskey to keep him company while he is keeping an eye on Arthur Gwynn Geiger's pornographic book store.

I struggled into a trench coat and made a dash for the nearest drugstore and bought myself a pint of whiskey. Back in the car I used enough of it to keep warm and interested.

Philip Marlowe seems to have played the role-model for many fictional private eyes who came after him. It was expected of a man in that profession to live on whiskey and cigarettes. Some of the characters he encounters in his adventures in The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady in the Lake, and The Long Goodbye have even worse habits. 

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