“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.