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How does Chandler characterise Joe Brody in "The Big Sleep?"

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How does Chandler characterise Joe Brody? * The characterisation of Joe Brody is initiated very early on in the novel. Inevitably, since Joe does not actually appear until page 78, this characterisation begins with what is said about Brody by other characters in the novel and the narrator. It should be noted however that character's testimonies are to be recognised as being of varying levels of reliability. On page 16 of the novel, Marlowe is being briefed by General Sternwood with regards to his assignment as a private detective investigating an alleged blackmailer. As he is giving some background information, Sternwood refers to an earlier incident in which he paid Joe Brody $5,000 'to let my daughter alone.' This immediately creates the impression that Brody is a rather unscrupulous person, accepting money to end his own involvement with a young woman. It also suggests that he possibly inhabits a lurid world and is himself an unsavoury character, after all it is doubtful that the General would pay him a large sum to leave his daughter alone if he was of a pleasant nature. However, the question of reliability is applicable here as there is the possibility at this stage that the General is simply overprotective and restrictive (although it soon becomes evident that this is not the case). ...read more.


ambition of going on to bigger and better things. * In terms of his relationships with other characters, the idea of his being able to impress and influence young women is added to through his relationship with Blonde Agnes. It is inferred that she has initially been impressed with Joe's ambitions and ideas, and has obviously been informing him with regards to the situation with Geiger, as she works at his store. However it is also apparent that she has become disillusioned with Brody, as is evident from the 'uncomplimentary speculation' with which she regards him and her declaration that he is only a 'half-smart guy.' This allows the reader to infer that despite his talk and his ideas, Joe is frequently unable to deliver upon such promises and realise his ambitions. This seems to have encouraged a lack of respect for him among those he has had dealings with, notably from Agnes as discussed and also from Carmen, who threatens him with a gun (although this might be more out of anger at the way he has treated her in the past rather than contempt due to his ineptitude). * Brody's initial behaviour and manner projects a sense of hardness, which seems forced, and he seems to be unnecessarily confrontational-'you got a funny sense of humour...take it away and play on it somewhere else'-presumably to try and emphasise this supposed hardness. ...read more.


Similarly, Brody omits unaccented auxiliary verbs-'You think I'd go back there...?' Although Marlowe does do the same thing at several points-'What you do for a living?' he does not use non standard grammar with anywhere near the same frequency as Brody and when he does, it is clear that he is doing so in order to provoke a certain kind of response from Brody, especially when his language begins to diverge away from Brody's as he attempts to distance himself from him in order to re-assert his superiority, his lexis and grammar of now a higher register. This point can be illustrated effectively when we look at the way Marlowe talks when considering Brody's story of his whereabouts in the night of the murder. 'That seems reasonable.' Although there is nothing here that could be described as sophisticated vocabulary or grammar, the overall tone seems to be the authoritative one of a high ranking policeman interrogating a suspect, with no grammatical inaccuracies whatsoever, and it is far removed from the manner in which we presume Brody would utter a similar statement. With Brody, it is clear that non standard grammar is a regular feature of his speech rather than a device he uses, as with Marlowe. Again we are given the impression of a lack of formal education, and perhaps a style of speech that has again been cultivated to exude defiance and hardness. ...read more.

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