Philip Marlowe, a private detective. Tall, dark, and rugged, with a poker face and a quick wit, he is attractive to women but wary of them and of all entanglements. Though cynical and hard-boiled, and a heavy drinker capable of violence, Marlowe is idealistic, even puritanical. Contemptuous of money, he is an honest loner in a corrupt world. Hired to deal with a blackmail threat, Marlowe is embroiled in a more deadly game by Sternwood’s two spoiled daughters, whose advances he spurns. Independent to the point of insubordination, he refuses to stop investigating the case, even after Sternwood pays him off.
General Guy de Brisay Sternwood
General Guy de Brisay Sternwood, an oil millionaire. Crippled and cadaverous, he subsists on little more than heat. A survivor, he is a man with no moral code, but he respects and admires the independence he sees in Marlowe and his son-in-law, Rusty Regan. At the beginning of the novel, he hires the detective to protect his younger daughter, but he turns out to be just as interested in finding his missing son-in-law.
Vivian Sternwood Regan
Vivian Sternwood Regan, the general’s older daughter. Tall and rangy, with black wiry hair and black eyes, she looks like trouble to Marlowe but turns out to have her sister’s and father’s interests at heart. Spoiled and bored, she spends much of her time at Mars’s casino, gambling away her allowance. Her attempts to manipulate Marlowe and throw him off the track instead point him in the right direction.
Carmen Sternwood, the general’s younger daughter. Coy but cruel, she is an unsettling blonde with drugged, expressionless, slate-gray eyes and an alluring body that she likes to expose. Expecting men to respond to her charms, she can be deadly when they do not. Her unexpected appearances throughout the novel complicate the plot, leading finally to her exposure as Regan’s killer.
Terence “Rusty” Regan...
(The entire section is 836 words.)