Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler is a novel that focuses on the moral decay of rich American society. The novel's main protagonist is Philip Marlowe. The story encompasses various themes, including death and promiscuity. These themes are further discussed below:

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Death

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Latest answer posted November 5, 2018, 7:17 am (UTC)

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Death is a key theme in the story. The murder of Sylvia Lennox is the first death that occurs, and it catalyzes the other events that occur in the novel. She is the wife of Terry Lennox, a war veteran. She is found dead in her own guest house before Lennox ends up fleeing. Marlowe is arrested in connection to the murder, but Lennox later confesses to killing Sylvia. The story revolves around her murder as Marlowe tries to establish the truth of what happened. Another death that occurs in the story is that of Roger Wade, who Marlowe suspects of killing Sylvia. However, before he can establish the truth about the matter, he finds Roger dead in his study room with a bullet in his head. The third death that occurs in the story is that of Eileen Wade, Roger’s wife. Once she is suspected of having killed her husband, Roger, she commits suicide; she leaves a suicide note in which she confesses to killing Sylvia Lennox for stealing Lennox and Roger from her. Additionally, Terry Lennox is said to have committed suicide and left a suicide note as well, confessing to killing Sylvia. Thus, death is a major theme in the story as the plot revolves around the investigation into Sylvia’s death.

Promiscuity

Promiscuity is also a clear theme in the story. Sylvia Lennox is portrayed as a promiscuous rich lady who has been married to six men before being murdered. Before her death, she had been married to Lennox two times. Most people are not astonished by her death due to her promiscuous nature. In her suicide note, Eileen Wade confesses to having killed Sylvia because she had stolen both Lennox and Roger from her. Linda Loring, Sylvia’s sister, is also portrayed as a promiscuous individual because despite being married to a physician, she still ends up having a one-night-stand with Marlowe. Another promiscuous character is Roger, who despite being married to Eileen still has an affair with Sylvia. This is established in Eileen’s suicide note in which she expresses her bitterness with both Rodger and Sylvia for having an affair behind her back. Therefore, the murders in the story can be attributed to the promiscuous nature of the victims.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 287

As in all of Chandler’s novels, the overriding theme of The Long Goodbye is the corruption of society, and the lengths to which people, especially the rich, will go to preserve the appearance of virtue. Harlan Potter, who appears only briefly, is the key figure in this regard. An imposingly wealthy man, he will use his intermediaries to go to any lengths to maintain his privacy and to keep the taint of negative publicity from touching him or his family. People may be killed, lives destroyed, public officials corrupted, as long as Potter’s privacy is maintained. The homes of the rich—isolated, carefully guarded, too large for human comfort—are an important symbol of this aspect of the novel.

At the same time, this novel is explicit in stating that corruption and crime are an inevitable product of the American ethos. In an extended dialogue, Bernie Ohls tells Marlowe that he hates gambling of any kind because it is one of the ways in which money and power go to organized crime and therefore contributes to corruption. Marlowe responds that “Crime isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom.” He goes on to say that police fail to understand their society: “We’re a big rough rich wild people and crime is the price we pay for it, and organized crime is the price we pay for organization. We’ll have it with us a long time. Organized crime is just the dirty side of the sharp dollar.” Marlowe seems to see his role as the preservation of more humane values; his dogged pursuit of the truth is valuable for its own sake, but he is not under any illusion that it will change society.

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