Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Sternwood Mansion

Sternwood Mansion. Los Angeles home of General Sternwood, which Chandler uses to represent money—the motivating factor in all the skullduggery that follows. General Sternwood is being blackmailed because he is known to be a multimillionaire. His two daughters are being exploited for the same reason. Private investigator Philip Marlowe becomes involved in the family’s troubles because the general needs to protect his money and his daughters. Chandler dramatizes the presence of enormous wealth by describing the size and luxury of the estate, the number of servants required to maintain it, the general’s private greenhouse, Vivian Regan’s all-white bedroom, and the family’s expensive automobiles. Chandler also uses the opening scene at the Sternwood Mansion to introduce many of the principal characters of his novel. Chandler skillfully introduces the characters of Carmen Sternwood, the nymphomaniac who is the source of most of the trouble; Norris, the butler; the general, who represents the dying moral values of a past era; the chauffeur, who will eventually murder Arthur Gwynn Geiger; Vivian Sternwood; and Vivian’s faithful maid. The dialogue also gives a preliminary introduction to characters who will appear later: Bernie Ohls, the assistant district attorney; Geiger, the blackmailer and pornography peddler; Eddie Mars, the gambler; Mars’s beautiful estranged wife; and Rusty Regan, who never actually appears but is essential to the story. The Sternwood Mansion is described in detail because it serves as an important setting for the events of the novel.


(The entire section is 666 words.)