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The Maltese Falcon is a book that succinctly captures the hardships of an ordinary person attempting to resolve the tribulations of his circumstances. In contrast to many related works of literature, the novel's lead character is not given the beauty that would deserve endless fame. Instead, Spade, like any other character in the book, is portrayed in generic terminology and suffers from common, if not identical, ailments to the other characters. Nonetheless, he triumphs over all adversities.
Essentially, the novel teaches the reader that every person can transcend tribulations regardless of the obstacles that besiege their beings. With relentless effort and constant initiative, man can change his possibilities. This is a reflection of the American dream which reinforces possibilities for every man’s dreams. Essentially, the epiphany resonated with the ideology that the Americans aligned themselves to after World War I. The hopeful tone in the novel constitutes a characteristic of the modernist movement of literature.
To begin with, Spade is shown to be as immoral as the next character in the novel. He is constantly referred to as the “blonde satan” as the novel progress to document his immoral sense (Hammett 22). Like the common man, and against the hero complex, Spade embodies the seven sins of the human being. He lies, is offensive to women and employs his charm to deceive the individuals around him. This was a reflection of the character of the average man in the modernist era. Such a description does not single out the exceptional qualities of the character but rather reinforces the normalcy of his being. Like most characters, he has to work hard to achieve his goals. This is a reflection of the American dream which emphasizes the constant need to extend efforts towards one’s tasks.
Likewise, through Spade, the reader is introduced into the concept of individualism which comprises a fundamental principle in the American dream. Thus, in order to redeem one’s community, one is compelled to first redeem themselves. Similarly, Spade’s pursuit can be said to be an attempt to redeem his inverted morality by helping in the recovery of the Maltese Falcon. His sense of justice contravenes his individual characteristics. However, it is this contradiction that captivates audience since it portrays the individual influence that an individual may have over the entire community. His inclinations towards solitude, and refusal to aid O’Shaughnessy are all reflections of the essence of individualism in promoting the good of the community.
Lastly, the overall need for protection of justice comprises an intrinsic element of the Maltese Falcon. Despite the complexity of the case, the police make it their priority to pursue the case. Furthermore, the novel alludes to the many forces that are against justice and the desperate measures they engage in trying to the secure the Maltese Falcon for themselves. This is a manifestation of the willingness to commit crimes in sufficing one’s desires. Still, Spade’s actions are aligned toward the application of justice regardless of his personal interests. This comprises one of the factors that leads to his betrayal of O’Shaughnessy to the police. Spade determines that he “cares for you (O’Shaughnessy) but I won’t play the sap for you (Hammett 216). He reinforces that, despite the love that he feels for O’Shaughnessy, justice must prevail.
In conclusion, The Maltese Falcon is a reflection of the American dream. It alludes to the principles of individualism, justice and inverted morality which were prevalent after the World War. It is a reflection of the hope that the modernists portrayed in the wake of the desperation which resulted from the war. Spade’s actions embody the intricacies of the actions of the average man in trying to change his circumstances.
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon . Vintage Crime , 1989.
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