The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Philip Marlowe has long been regarded as the prototypal private investigator. Countless practitioners of the genre have liberally borrowed for their central characters the qualities with which Chandler endows Marlowe: honor, pride, a sense of humor, a sense of character, and an inborn, intense curiosity about people and situations. This last quality is what draws Marlowe to Moose Malloy initially and what (along with the other qualities) propels him forward during his investigation.

By using Marlowe as the narrator, Chandler allows his character’s salient features to appear through Marlowe’s thoughts, actions, opinions, and descriptions. A perfect example of this occurs when Anne Riordan shows him a picture of Mrs. Lewin Lockridge Grayle and Marlowe sees her as “a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.” Though this assessment of her proves to be most accurate, it does not prevent him from participating, at first, in her attempted seduction of him. Marlowe’s sense of fair play prevails, and he immediately leaves when her husband walks in. Yet this makes no difference to Mrs. Grayle; she tells Marlowe to forget about her husband.

This is not a woman born to wealth or to high social standing, as Marlowe soon finds out. Indeed, Mrs. Grayle is Velma Valento, the object of Malloy’s search, a woman perfectly capable of killing to protect what she has acquired. Shrewd and calculating, she is quick to act and acts...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Philip Marlowe

Philip Marlowe, an intelligent, wisecracking private investigator about forty years old. Although Marlowe presents a hard-boiled, cynical exterior, it is really a cover for his somewhat sentimental and romantic nature. It is Malloy’s heartfelt search for his old girlfriend and his obvious love for her even after eight years in prison that inspire Marlowe to investigate. Marlowe’s cynicism is belied when, despite Velma’s cold-blooded and self-serving murder of Malloy, Marlowe can still attribute her later suicide to the selfless motive of wishing to spare her husband the embarrassment of a murder trial and its ensuing publicity.

Anne Riordan

Anne Riordan, a beautiful auburn-haired writer in her late twenties. Her father was fired from his job as police chief of Bay City because he refused to give in to corrupting influences. As a result, Anne is interested both in mysteries and in seeing that justice is done. She helps Marlowe figure out elements of the case and serves as a confidant to whom he can tell his theories about the mystery.

Mrs. Lewin Lockridge Grayle

Mrs. Lewin Lockridge Grayle, formerly Velma Valento, the beautiful young wife of a rich investment banker many years older than she. Her husband allows her to go out with other men, one of whom is Lindsay Marriott. Mrs. Grayle, then known as Velma Valento, also was at one time Moose’s girlfriend; she hid her...

(The entire section is 432 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In the few short months between the time that Chandler published The Big Sleep (1939) and finished writing Farewell, My Lovely,...

(The entire section is 288 words.)