Critical Reading Response Final Draft Essay

Submitted By mkp750
Words: 1141
Pages: 5

Michael Phan
James Funk
Writing 39B
28 October 2014
Critical Reading Response Paper Detective fiction began with an era known as the Golden Age. In this era, the Golden Age detective was typically a valiant intellectual, deducing answers from clues. In these novels the world was orderly, people were inherently good and action was reserved. Eventually the Golden Age era declined after World War 1 and amidst the Great Depression leading to the inception of the “hardboiled” genre. These were times of great struggle in history, reflected by the hardboiled era through its edgier and darker atmosphere. The world was far from perfect and people, such as civilians and lawmen, were inherently wicked and corrupt. Another feature of the hardboiled genre was its general atmosphere of cynicism. This was expressed through different ways; its characters, the setting, and dialogue are all applicable ways of showing this convention. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler is arguably the epitome of the hardboiled genre. Yet in terms of cynicism, it is debatable that Chandler does not follow that convention, but instead his writing resembles more of an idealistic stance. In The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler may seem to be utilizing the convention of cynicism in his writing, but one could argue that it is more associated with idealism. The convention of cynicism can be seen through Marlowe as he describes his surroundings. Upon entering the Sternwood house, he sees, “a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable, and he was fiddling with the knots on the ropes that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. He didn’t seem to be really trying” (3-4). Chandler’s depiction of the knight elicits cynicism, but also a sense of irony and humor. Typically in fairy tales, knights are in shining armor and rescue the damsel in distress in a heroic fashion. This image of a knight in dark armor and struggling is not expected. Here readers can see the cynicism in Chandler’s writing. Perfect knights in shining armors are merely objects of fairy tales, and in Chandler’s world of disillusionment, people like that do not exist. The knight in shining armor reflects more of the Golden Age era, where detectives were heroic and valiant. Chandler’s knight is edgier, not perfect in any sense nor reflecting the heroes of the Golden Age. This is evident through the knight’s description. He is wearing dark armor, which symbolizes the antihero trait of the hardboiled genre’s characters and in a way trauma. Shining armor can be interpreted as naive and idealistic, the armor has not experienced battle. This image of dark armor can be construed as battle tested and weary from years of fighting. Being in dark armor and described as attempting to be sociable shows that the knight lacks or lost his sense of chivalry. No longer gallant nor in shining armor, the knight is now cynical and uncaring and does not even try nor care for the task placed before him in the painting. This reflects the characters in Chandler’s novel, who may have started their lives and careers desiring to improve themselves and their world in a positive manner, but living in and witnessing a deteriorating world daily ultimately degrades them to cynicism and vice. Yet, through further analysis of the passage one could argue that Chandler’s writing takes on a more idealistic stance. Upon seeing the painting, Marlowe muses to himself that he might have to go up and help out the knight. In a way, Chandler depicts Marlowe as sort of a modern day knight, which educes a more idealistic direction in the novel. In a world of corruption and disillusionment, it is difficult to remain a valiant and courageous