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.

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.