Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Most of Chandler’s works are written from the first-person point of view, enabling the reader to know exactly what the narrator is thinking about and planning to do. “Nevada Gas,” however, is written from the third-person point of view, and, as a result, the reader sees Johnny and the other characters from the outside. Consequently, the reader is always a step or two behind the characters’ motives and thinking and, thereby, behind the meaning of the action. For example, after Johnny’s attempted murder, he immediately begins to search for the meaning of the clues he has, and the reader is left temporarily bewildered about his purpose. Part of the pleasure of a mystery story from the reader’s point of view is to try to think along with the characters and thereby add life to the narrative. If the reader can figure out the mystery long before the sleuth does, then the writer has not done a good job.

The objective third-person point of view and rather unemotional characters of “Nevada Gas” are characteristic of the “hard-boiled” mysteries written by Chandler’s contemporary, Dashiell Hammett, rather than of Chandler’s wisecracking narrative style in the Philip Marlowe novels. Chandler’s eye for the colorful detail that reveals a person’s true nature is much in evidence, as when Johnny says, “When I lose I don’t get sore and I don’t chisel. I just move to the next table.”


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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