Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 636
Here are some quotes from The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett:
Absolutely. Read about it in the Post--one of the few aristocrats left in American politics. And his daughter's an aristocrat. That's why I'm warning you to sew your shirt on when you go to see them, or you'll come away without it, because to them you're a lower form of animal life and none of the rules apply.
At the beginning of the book, Ned Beaumont is critical of his friend Paul Madvig's relationship with Senator Ralph Bancroft Henry. Madvig has befriended the senator so that he can marry his daughter, Janet Henry. In this quote, Ned Beaumont sarcastically says that the senator and his daughter are upper crust but they are also not to be trusted and may look down on Madvig and people like him.
His hat wasn't there.
After Taylor Henry is murdered, Beaumont can't figure out why Taylor Henry's hat is not present at the scene of the murder. The missing hat becomes a critical clue in the mystery, as Paul Madvig can't really account for why it is missing (he claims Taylor Henry left the house without his hat). Later, when Senator Henry admits to having killed his own son, he explains that he had left the house without a hat and later put on his son's hat after killing him.
I don't remember what it was like before—and you climbed up after me and leaned down and unlocked the door, and all the snakes came slithering out. We lay holding our breath on the roof until the last of the hundreds and hundreds of them had slithered out of sight into the forest. Then we jumped down and ran inside and locked the door and ate and ate and ate and I woke sitting up in bed clapping my hands and laughing.
This is Janet Henry's account of the dream she has had about Ned Beaumont. The snakes are symbolic of her father's slaying of his son (Janet's brother) and his collusion to cover up the murder with Paul Madvig. The fact that Janet is working with Ned Beaumont in the dream shows that she is on his side and that he, and the reader, can trust her. As Hammett's narrative does not show the interior life of the characters, it is difficult for the reader to know whom to trust, but this dream shows that Janet is trustworthy because she is working with Ned Beaumont against the snakes (the evil people represented by Madvig and her father).
In that dream—I didn't tell you—the key was glass and shattered in our hands just as we got the door open, because the lock was stiff and we had to force it.
Janet's dream concludes with a glass key that shatters as she and Ned Beaumont open the door to the room with the snakes. The glass key is symbolic of her relationship with her father, who has actually committed the murder and killed his son. In opening the door, or solving the murder, she shatters this relationship. The key to the murder is her relationship with her father and the fact that he has killed his son. The key is made of glass because it is fragile and easily shattered.
Madvig's lips parted. He looked dumbly at Ned Beaumont and as he looked the blood went out of his face again. When his face was quite bloodless he mumbled something of which only the word "luck" could be understood, turned clumsily around, went to the door, opened it, and went out, leaving it open behind him.
At the end of the story, Janet leaves with Ned Beaumont and deserts Paul Madvig. Ned Beaumont and his old friend Madvig have also had an irreparable parting of the ways.