*Manhattan. New York City borough that is the financial and cultural center of the United States and the primary setting for the novel. Though various plot threads link the investigation to other places—such as Philadelphia and San Francisco—the entire novel unfolds within Manhattan, where Hammett himself lived for several years. His fictional sleuths, Nick and Nora Charles, move from city landmark to landmark and clearly know all stylish elements of the city. They meet with artists and professors in Greenwich Village and move from illegal speakeasies to Harlem, looking for fun. However, the novel offers little description of the city itself; instead Hammett merely drops minimal details into the narrative, contributing to the novel’s fast-moving pace, feeling of insider knowledge, and sense that all of Manhattan is merely a stage setting on which important people act with style.
Charles apartment. Nick and Nora’s upper-class residence in Manhattan’s Normandie Building. The apartment has a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and enough space to have a bar. Its building contains a restaurant and a bellboy, whom the Charleses pay to take care of their pet dog, Asta. However, like the city, the apartment’s furnishings are never described. Despite this, the Charleses seem to live in an airy, stylish place. Hammett achieves this impression through witty exchanges among his characters that strongly suggest that the Charleses have an expensive and elegant lifestyle. He reinforces this impression by describing other places in details that create an implied contrast with their...
(The entire section is 678 words.)