” 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.
“‘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.