The Detective Literature Review Sample
Detective fiction is a favorite genre for many authors of novels as well as film and television producers. This genre gained popularity in the latter half of the 19th Century with the publishing of famous detectives’ stories such as Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This genre was further advanced in the early 20th Century by authors such as Agatha Christie. The invention of television and cinema also saw many writers and producers orient towards this genre of fiction (Delamater 14). This trend has continued even today particularly in television where there are tens of detective programs running across major television networks. Unfortunately, the proliferation of this genre in pop culture has led to the emergence of an ambiguity on the true nature and indeed the true roles of a detective (Delamater 15). Based on the available media artifacts and literary works, there does not appear to be any standard definition of the true roles and functions of a detective and the term appears to become more and more subjective as days go by. This is not to say that there are not a few standout aspects or characteristic of detectives that can be identified from the available media artifacts such as films and movies. This paper aims to look at the nature and roles of detectives using one of the most iconic detective films of the 20th Century. This is the film “The Big Sleep” released in 1946 and starring the majestic Humphrey Bogart. The film shows that detectives have a strict code of conduct that guide their behavior, are insubordinate to authority and therefore abandon all behavioral rules and conventions, are motivated by the nature of their work and not by rewards such as money, and at the end of the day, they get their work done.
In the movie “The Big Sleep”, the detective Phillip Marlowe espouses some standard characteristics of a detective. He comes across as a hardboiled detective who in spite of a few hurdles and distractions maintains focus as he attempts to solve the case. In fact, the film “The Big Sleep’ focuses more on the process of investigations rather than the results of the investigation. This is done intentionally so as to bring out the main characteristics of a detective and the different emotions and situation they go through in the course of their detective work. Ultimately, from the film, it emerges that the detective work is not one for the weak. It is an extremely tasking work that requires uttermost commitment and that is plagued by a host of problems and dangers that could, in fact, result in the death as it is shown in this film where Marlowe comes to face to face with killers and several life threatening situations.
One issue that is always debated in regards to detective work is on the code of conduct. Questions are often asked on what guides the conduct and behavior of detectives, particularly the behavior of private detectives. Is there a standard code of conduct that guides the behavior of all private detectives? Once again, this is a question that can be answered by looking at the film “The Big Sleep”.
This is an occurrence that if allowed to blossom might affect the performance of his duties and perhaps even cloud his judgment. Although he allows some flirtation to take place in the beginning, he is however extremely careful because he understands the sensitivity of the work that he is engaged in. In fact, when Carmen grows exceedingly flirtatious, and it becomes clear that she is interfering with his work, Marlowe immediately throws her out of his apartment so that he can go on with his work peacefully. Therefore, Marlowe seems to have some code of conduct where he does not let associations of a persona nature prevent him from performing his duties effectively.
In the course of their work, detectives might become attached to the persons involved in the cases that they are investigating. For example, a detective might fall in love with a person involved in a case under investigation. The effect or outcome of this is often disastrous. One is not able to make rational decisions about a case if they have a personal relationship with a person of interest in a given case. Such persons will tend to be biased and will not make conclusive investigations.
Therefore, one of the most common catchphrases among detectives is to never get too attached or personally involved. Many detectives abide by this code and on most occasions, it helps them a lot in terms of staying focused and making objective deductions and conclusions about a case.
Many authors have in fact written about the ethical code of conduct evident in many detective works of fiction. One of them is the tendency of a detective to espouse anonymity and secrecy as much as possible. For example, a detective is not supposed to rant about their preliminary findings to anyone, let alone the person who have contracted them.
Another element of the code of conduct is the duty of a detective to protect good people from those who are bad. In addition, a detective is also required to ignore behavioral conventions and rules in the course of investigation since this may act as impediment to conclusive investigations. In addition, detectives are supposed to remain extremely loyal to their clients. However, a personal sense about the rule of law or justice may supersede loyalty to the detective’s client if for example the client is found to be engaging in criminal behavior.
Some of these elements are very prevalent in the film “The Big Sleep”. An example is non-abidance to behavioral rules and conventions. Marlowe, in fact, comes across as a very thrift character who is also insubordinate or rebellious to authority. In fact, he is revealed to have been fired from his job as an investigator in the district attorney’s office because of his tendency to insubordinate to authority.
Abiding to the conventions and rules is something that may be good for the personal image but when it comes to detective work, rules, and conventions can act as barriers to finding out the real truth about a certain event and this is why Marlowe admits to throwing rules and conventions out of the window and indeed being insubordinate to authority.
Perhaps another aspect that shines through in this film about the characteristics of detectives is that most are motivated by the nature of their work and not by other rewards such as money.
In another incidence, Marlowe mocks Vivian for thinking that money is his motivation. He does this albeit sarcastically saying that it is indeed his love for money that motivates him to do his detective work. He talks about how his greed for money is so much that for a few cents per day, he would risk his future, risk being hated by police officers and even dodge bullets as he attempts to solve a case. This is all aimed at showing that money means nothing to him and that he is simply motivated by the nature of his work.
In regard to loyalty, it appears to be one of the guiding principles towards his work. He is extremely loyal to his client and does not want to do anything that contravenes this loyalty. This for example depicted in the scene where he maintains that he cannot inform the police that he has found out before informing the client.
He feels that the agreement between him and the client required him to first inform him of any findings before informing the police.
‘The Big Sleep” is without a doubt one of the most iconic films related to detective work. Phillip Marlowe played by the magnificent Humphrey Bogart represents a supreme model of private detectives. The fact that the film focuses on the process of investigation rather than results helps to bring out some of the essential characteristics of detectives, their main roles and functions as well as the code of conduct that guides their behavior. From the onset of the film, Marlowe comes across as a full-fledged detective who has a strict code of conduct that guides his behavior. He is also insubordinate to authority and therefore abandons all behavioral rules and conventions but at the end of the day gets the work done. The film also brings out another aspect related to detective work, and this is that most detectives are motivated by the nature of their work and not by rewards such as money.
The Big Sleep. Dir. Howard Hawks. Perf. Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall. 1946. Warner Bros, 1946. Film.
Delamater, Jerome, and Ruth Prigozy, eds. The detective in American fiction, film, and television. No. 63. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.