The Maltese Falcon

Novel & Adaptation:
Elements and Essential Questions
Author: Dashiell Hammet 18941961
Teen Years
 Quick to fight
 Loved to read…spent lots of time at the library
 Dropped out of school at 14 (1908) to work because his
family was broke
 Had a number of health issues, including tuberculosis
At 21 (1915) became a detective in Baltimore
First published in 1921 (27 years old)
Wrote more than 80 short stories in the 1920s and 1930s
Street level realism, born of vivid slang and crisp
language , registered with strongly with the public
 Stopped writing in 1934…he was all “written out”
Why it matters
[The Maltese Falcon] [d]efines the
American conception of the private
eye, Sam Spade, of the femme
fatale, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and of
the hard boiled style….It shows the
personal and professional toughness
necessary [to survive] in the
Depression and after. (Marling
Novel: Genre
American Detective Fiction
 Began in pulps (Pulp magazines)
○ Born out of disillusionment with the increasing
corruption of American social life enhanced by the
unhappy effects of prohibition in the big cities.
 Objective
○ Challenges the reader to solve the puzzle before
the detective explains it at the end.
 Common elements in The Maltese Falcon
○ Hardboiled Detective (often an antihero)
○ Femme fatal
Novel: Style
Objective point of view
 Meiosis (minimalist approach)
 Use of dialogue
 Hardboiled Fiction
Major Characters
Sam Spade
 Miles Archer
 Brigid O’Shaughnessy
 Effie Perine
 Joel Cairo
 Casper Gutman
 Wilmer
Film Noir
 Developed during and after WWII
 Central figure is a cynical and hardened male that
encounters a femme fatale; femme fatale often
destroyed after a double cross or betrayal
 Emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivation
 Low key black and white visual style
 Dark downbeat looks and theme
 Happy or optimistic endings are rare
 Still very much alive and referred to as Hollywood
Watch the brief clip from L.A Confidential and identify
elements of film noir.
Loyalty/ Trust
Human Adaptability
As you read, note character interactions,
dilemmas, and significant events that
establish a specific message about the
theme. Consider what the author is trying
to express about greed. Is he saying
something about the root of greed, or the
consequences of greed, etc.?
Works Cited
“Film Noir.” AMC Filmsite. AMC Networks,
2012. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
Prof. Ratigan Reviews, “The Maltese
Falcon.” World Press, 17 Aug. 2012.
Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
“The Maltese Falcon.” The Big Read.
National Endowment for the Arts, n.d.
Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
“The Maltese Falcon.” enotes, n.d. Web. 28
Aug. 2012.

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