The Maltese Falcon Themes & Symbolism

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Ross Macdonald, himself one of the masters of the hard-boiled detective novel and a great admirer of Hammett's, calls The Maltese Falcon "a fable of modern man in quest of love and money." Indeed, the falcon — the symbol of the illusory nature of happiness through wealth — has such dominant power over the characters in the novel, including Sam Spade, that they will do anything to possess it.

Love turns out to be equally deceiving; just as the falcon is revealed as a fake, Brigid's love for Sam Spade is shown as false. True love, based on honesty and altruism no longer exists in the modern city; it has been replaced by mere carnal lust as a motivating agent. Miles Archer and Floyd Thursby lust after Brigid; Spade has an affair with Archer's wife and then sleeps with Brigid; Captain Jacobi, one may assume, either hopes for...

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This section contains 663 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Maltese Falcon Study Guide
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The Maltese Falcon from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.