The Maltese Falcon

“Five thousand dollars is,” he said for the third time, “a lot of money.”

She lifted her shoulders and hands and let them fall in a gesture that accepted defeat. “It is,” she agreed in a small dull voice. “It is far more than I could ever offer you, if I must bid for your loyalty.”

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. 1930. Vintage, 1989. pg 57

Here, Brigid speaks of loyalty as if it is a commodity, in the sale of which the highest bidder wins. It is almost certain that if Brigid was fortunate enough, she would have purchased Spade’s loyalty. But if loyalty can be bought and sold so easily, and need not be gained through one’s actions, is it really wise to trust anyone in this novel?



The moral code in The Maltese Falcon

“As far as I can see, my best chance of clearing myself of the trouble you’re trying to make for me is bringing in the murders-all tied up.”

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. 1930. Vintage, 1989. pg 151- 152

In this quote, Spade is battling with his inner moral codes and trying to find a reasonable outcome that favors him. Spade, a man whose career ties in with the law tremendously, has found a way to the polar opposite of his career. Instead of abiding by the right thing to do, Spade now resorts to a mindset where it is every man for himself.


Maltese Falcon – A Moral Code : Bryant Magdaleno

” As far as I can see, my best chance of clearing myself of the trouble you’re trying to make for me is by bringing in the murderers—all tied up. And my only chance of ever catching them and tying them up and bringing them in is by keeping away from you and the police, because neither of you show any signs of knowing what in hell it’s all about.”

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. 1930. Vintage, 1989. pg 151- 152

Within the text this statement after Bryan tells Spade that withholding  evidence from him is a crime, essentially threating spade with for doing what he thinks should be done in the moment. Spade does not take kindly to this threat and thus says the following quote. Morality of what’s right and wrong in this moment are not dictated by what the law entails instead its for Spade a question of best outcomes, of course he still wants the criminals caught but he dictator on how and why in the moment. He thinks the cops and DA a bunch of fools who can’t get the job done  needed to be done. This shows his contrast not only to the law itself but representatives of those laws as well, for Spade through out the novel is a man of convection of right and wrong but of one self ideal of them, he does take law as a moral code unto itself. While other hero’s of fiction abide but the rules given Spade bucks this trend in the novel and sees his case and how he can solve in the light of a grey morality that skirts the law for a more effective form of conducting his investigation, his morality in this moment and through the novel is one of personal indifference to every one else. He is a man who has to get the job done, no matter how it happens even it means bucking against authority for his own idea of the “right” thing to do.

“The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett Commonplace-Book Entry: Doing the Right Thing

“‘Listen. When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it. It’s bad all around — bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere.Third, I’m a detective and expecting me to run criminals down and then let them go free is like asking a dog to catch a rabbit and let it go. It can be done, all right, and sometimes it is done, but it’s not the natural thing. The only way I could have let you go was by letting Gutman and Cairo and the kid go. That’s–’” 

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1929, 1930, page 213-214.

In this passage, Samuel Spade is talking to Brigid O’Shaughnessy after he revealed that he would turn her in to the police when he realized that she was the one who killed his former partner, Miles Archer. By saying that he should do something about his partner being killed, even if he did not like Miles very much while he was alive, Samuel Spade also reveals in this scene that he has rules that he likes to stick by, which I feel like he has not spoken about during the whole novel until this very moment. Throughout the whole book, it seems that Sam would be willing to lie, cheat, and steal for his own goals and to gain the upper hand, so it would not have surprised me if he let at least one of the criminals go, or even if he allowed them all to be free so that he would get some of the millions of money that the criminals could have shared with him if they successfully got away and sold the Maltese Falcon. However, by turning in all of the criminals for their wrongdoing, and saying that he was doing so for the sake of his murdered business partner, even if he was not so great of a person, my expectations for Samuel Spade’s actions were exceeded, and shows me that he does actually care about doing the thing that he feels is right to do, though it seems he only puts that under consideration during certain situations he finds himself in.

Commonplace-Book Entry: “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett, Spade’s Moral Code

“‘He came up here with his mouth watering, though you’d have sense enough to know I’d been stringing Gutman.’”

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1930, page 216.

Here, Spade reveals that he was just pretending to go along with Gutman’s plans in exchange for a cut of the money he would get from the falcon, however, as he says here, Spade was actually going to hand them all in to the police, and this likely would have happened exactly as planned if they hadn’t gotten a fake bird and tried to escape. However, this was revealed at the very end of the book, and due to Spade’s shown greediness with money, as well as his insistence on the others of his plan to leave out details to the police, which he would often tell his employees to do, I feel that the audience would expect him to let the criminals get away as long as he would get the money he was promised. He does eventually end up calling the police and tells them about all the details of the criminals and their plan to get the real falcon, despite their offer to still let him help for the money, which could be proof of Spade following his moral code as a detective. Also, in this quote, Spade is saying that Tom Polhaus would know that he would only be pretending to go along with Gutman’s plans, which implies that perhaps in the past, he had kept facts about cases from him or went along with the plans of other criminals, but only to turn them into the police and reveal all of the details of the crime, showing that he stays true to the job he has to do, as a true detective would do. This shows that even though he may lie, joke, keep secrets from the police, and help criminals in some situations, that Spade does always follow his moral code as a detective to turn in all criminals to the police, despite their proposals or promises or emotions that he could be tempted by.

The Maltese Falcon: Moral Codes & Dodging Beams… Until You Don’t Have To

“[Flitcraft] wasn’t sorry for what he had done. It seemed reasonable enough to him. I don’t think he even knew he had settled back naturally into the same groove he had jumped out of in Tacoma. But that’s the part of it I always liked. He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling.

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. 1929. New York: Vintage, 1957, page 84.

Moral Codes in The Maltese Falcon

“Spade emptied the unconscious man’s pockets one by one, working methodically, moving the lax body when necessary, making a pile of the pockets’ contents on the desk. When the last pocket had been turned out he returned to his own chair, rolled and lighted a cigarette, and began to examine his spoils. He examined them with grave unhurried thoroughness.”

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. First Vintage Crime,  1992, page 47.