Red Harvest presents a literary image of the United States as a violent, greedy, power-hungry society. The main villains are not the gangsters but wealthy influential people who use thugs to defend their often ill-gotten wealth and the power derived from it.
This lust for money and power is stronger than even family ties, as witnessed by the death of Donald Wilsson caused indirectly by his own father.
The question Hammett presents to the reader focuses on what, if anything, can be done to correct this situation; furthermore, Hammett writes about the consequences which face a man who has made it his task to steer clear both of pervasive corruption and of the attempts to fight against it.
The end of the novel indicates that any victory against the forces of materialism and greed will be short-lived, since the core of the corruption is not located in the...