Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340

The Long Goodbye is a detective fiction novel published in 1953, written by Raymond Chandler. Chandler produced several works--both short stories and novels--which feature Philip Marlowe as the protagonist. Marlowe is a private investigator, whose casual acquaintance Terry Lennox (who exhibits lurid and extravagant behavior) asks for a ride to Tijuana, Mexico. Marlowe learns only upon returning from this trip to his apartment that Lennox's wife has been found murdered. Marlowe is briefly held for complicit guilt in this murder, until Lennox himself is found dead in Mexico, having confessed to murdering his wife.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In a seemingly tangential plot, Marlowe is drawn into aiding one Roger Wade, a formerly successful writer, who is being kept in a facility for alcoholics. Roger's wife, Eileen, implores Marlowe to stay at their home on the pretext of keeping her husband sober; however, she soon makes clear her interest in seducing Marlowe.

Marlowe leaves the dysfunctional household, returning only briefly for casual visits with his friend, Roger. When Marlowe comes back and stays nearby the Wade household, Roger is found shot in his living room—an apparent suicide. An outside investigator proves to Wade that Eileen was responsible for killing her husband.

The evening after being confronted, Eileen also kills herself, having revealed to Marlowe and the other detective that Lennox was her former husband. She met him in San Fernando Valley by happenstance, after he was pronounced dead during World War II. Her suicide note also includes a confession of having killed Sylvia Lennox—a confession which Marlowe publishes to clear (the presumed dead) Terry Lennox's name.

A final plot twist occurs when Terry Lennox returns to California, sporting a new complexion as a result of plastic surgery (marking his third self-reinvention, of sorts). His death had been a ruse in order to lend credence to his confession. Chandler's novel has the plot complexity of a murder mystery with an outcome reminiscent of a Greek tragedy. It is hardly surprising that the novel was made into a film of the same name, produced in 1972.

Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 714

The theme of The Long Goodbye, the sixth of Chandler’s seven novels, is again the corruption of American society, especially its rich. It is also about alienation and the need for love and friendship.

Marlowe befriends a charming drunk, Terry Lennox, in the parking lot of a swank Beverly Hills restaurant. Terry comes to him a few months later, and Marlowe drives him down across the U.S. border into Tijuana. It seems that Terry’s wealthy wife, Sylvia, the daughter of Harlan Potter, a newspaper magnate, has been murdered, and the police suspect Terry. The police arrest Marlowe as an accessory when he pulls into the driveway of his Hollywood Hills home after the long trip back from the Mexican border town.

The police release Marlowe after they receive a written murder confession from Terry, as well as the news that he has died in Mexico. The police warn Marlowe off the case, as do several others, including Linda Loring. Linda, the disenchanted wife of a physician, is the sister of the murdered Sylvia. Later, she becomes Marlowe’s lover for a single night.

Meanwhile, Eileen Wade, the beautiful wife of a successful writer, Roger Wade, hires Marlowe to rescue her husband from a disreputable clinic for wealthy alcoholics. After Marlowe does so, Eileen begs him to stay with her husband to keep him sober long enough to finish another novel. Marlowe remains for a while but then leaves, disgusted with Roger’s drunken confessions of adultery with Sylvia Lennox and with Eileen’s seductive behavior. Marlowe returns to the Wade house a week later to have lunch with Roger. Roger gets drunk and passes out, and Marlowe stays near the house to watch over him. When Eileen returns from shopping that afternoon, however, Roger is dead in the study, with a bullet through his head.

Lieutenant Bernie Ohls, Marlowe’s old friend, investigates the death. He disagrees with the official finding, which ruled that Roger’s death was a suicide. Instead, Ohls points out evidence to Marlowe that Eileen Wade sneaked into the house and shot her husband while Marlowe was outside and a noisy motorboat was passing by, covering the sound of the gun.

Marlowe and Howard Spencer, Roger’s publisher, go to Eileen’s house and confront Eileen with this evidence. Marlowe also reveals the fact that, in England during World War II, Eileen had been married to Terry Lennox, who used the name Paul Marston then. She thought that he had been killed by the Nazis. She learned that he was alive only after she met him accidentally in Idle Valley (Chandler’s name for the San Fernando Valley), after he had married Sylvia.

That night, Eileen commits suicide by swallowing an overdose of sleeping pills. She leaves a note confessing that she killed Sylvia Lennox because she felt that Sylvia had stolen both of her husbands. Eileen killed Roger because she was angry about his affair with Sylvia and she wanted to make it look like he was guilty of her murder.

Marlowe publishes her confession to clear Terry Lennox’s name of guilt in Sylvia’s death. He makes love to Linda Loring, who is divorcing her husband, yet he refuses to marry her and live on her father’s money. Lennox, who supposedly died in Mexico, comes to Marlowe with a darkened complexion and a new name, Señor Maioranos (“Mr. Better Years”). He faked his suicide with the help of some gangsters to make his murder confession seem more plausible.

Marlowe despises Lennox for his lack of integrity. He returns the five-thousand-dollar bill that Lennox had sent him earlier in payment for helping him escape the country. When Lennox asks him why he refuses the payment, Marlowe tells him, “You had standards and you lived up to them, but they were personal. They had no relation to any kind of ethics or scruples. . . . you were just as happy with mugs or hoodlums as with honest men. . . . You’re a moral defeatist.

When Lennox leaves Marlowe’s office, Marlowe realizes that he has lost a friend. He feels as empty as he had when Linda Loring left him after their one night of passion, when he said, “To say goodbye is to die a little.”

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Next

Themes