Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 386
The Glass Key is regarded as one of Dashiell Hammett's finest works. Here's an outline of the attributes of the characters in this story.
A gambler who fancies himself as a detective, Ned is the central protagonist, and unlike other heroes from Hammett's stories, Ned does not shy away from a relationship with a girl. Janet is his love interest. Ned is loyal to his boss and friend, Paul Madvig, and goes out of his way to help his friend clear his name in a murder charge. He's tough and stoic along the lines of other hard-boiled private eyes, stating "I can stand anything I've got to stand".
Madvig is a crooked politician who turns a blind eye to the vices that plague the city. He's outwardly cheerful and wishes to marry Janet Henry, Senator Henry's daughter, and thus move a few rungs up the political hierarchy. He's framed for the murder of Taylor Henry, the senator's son.
Blue-eyed and with pink cheeks, Opal is Paul Madvig's daughter and the love interest of Taylor Henry. She tries to commit suicide by slitting her wrist.
He's Madvig's rival in crime. He has Beaumont beaten up by his bodyguard Jeff after Beaumont refuses his offer to frame Paul. Of Irish stock, O'Rory is killed by Jeff.
Janet is the daughter of Sen. Ralph Bancroft Henry, and the object of Paul Madvig's affections. She is repulsed by Madvig and ends up getting attracted to Beaumont. Brown-eyed and feisty, she plays a crucial role in cracking the case of her brother, Taylor Henry's, murder.
Madvig's chosen candidate for the post of senator in a likely re-election, the senator is a cynical politician who is ruthless in his quest for political dominance. He epitomizes corruption and hypocrisy in the upper political echelons.
The morally decrepit son of Senator Henry, Taylor is murdered, and the murderer is revealed toward the end of the novel. He is Opal's boyfriend.
A gambler, Bernie is owed money by Taylor. Bernie, in turn, owes money to Ned. He's a suspect in the murder of Taylor Henry.
O'Rory's bodyguard, Jeff is the archetypal slow-witted henchman who delights in dishing out punishment for his boss. He administers a severe beating to Beaumont, and strangles O'Rory to death.