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Characterization of Joe Brody in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

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  1. Introduction
  2. Characterization
  3. Characterization of Joe Brody in Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep"
  4. Raymond Chandler's "Philip Marlowe"
  5. Joe Brody
  6. Conclusion

The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines characterization as ?representation of persons in narrative and dramatic works? and distinguishes between direct characterization, which attributes qualities to the character directly by virtue of description or commentary, and indirect characterization, which allows readers to draw their own conclusions from what the characters do, how they behave and what they say (52). In Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, both techniques are intertwined in the characterization of Joe Brody, which begins before the character first appears with references made by others, and continues with the character's own behavior.

Brody can be summed up as ?a minor conman? who was once paid 5,000 dollars by General Sternwood to end his involvement with his daughter Carmen and who took over Geiger's pornography racket after his death only to be killed by Geiger's lover Carol Lundgren, who incorrectly thought that he killed Geiger (Widdicombe 22). Although Joe Brody does not make an appearance until page 31 of The Big Sleep, Chandler begins his characterization much earlier in the novel in the statements of other characters and the narration. When General Sternwood explains his assignment to Marlowe and tells him about the supposed blackmailer he wants him to investigate, he mentions, among other things, that he paid Brody 5,000 dollars to ?let my daughter alone? (Chandler 4).

The readers are thus led to believe that Brody is a character of questionable morals, considering that he allowed himself to be bribed into ending his relationship with the girl. In addition, since the general was willing to pay such a considerable sum to get him out of his daughter's life, Brody is also painted as what could be described as ?an unsavory character?. The reliability of this description might be an issue and the readers might be inclined to take General Sternwood's characterization with a grain of salt or even dismiss it as fatherly overprotectiveness, but they will soon find out this is not the case here.

[...] Comments made by other characters leading up to Brody's own appearance paint the picture of a demimonde character and a smalltime criminal. In Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: The Hard-Boiled Detective Transformed, Athanasourelis describes Brody as being ?clearly out of his league? and lacking both the physical strength to intimidate Eddie Mars and the intelligence to outwit him (125). When Brody is finally introduced, he is described in a way that suggests a slender build, which does not make him look very threatening, and as possessed of the ability to control his facial expressions, which implies that he has had dealings in the past that required such ability. [...]

[...] Further into the novel, Carmen accuses Brody of killing Geiger and makes it known that she him (Chandler 26). Having someone who knows him express such a strong negative sentiment about him adds to the impression of Joe Brody as an unpleasant person. Carmen is a character of very low reliability, however, which naturally leads the readers to question her characterization of Brody. However, the impression of Brody that she creates will soon be supported by other sources. Similar implications are made about Brody's character in the narration before Brody himself is introduced. [...]

[...] The physical description of Brody when he appears for the first time suggests a lack of physical strength and intelligence. The appearance of Brody's apartment and his behavior in interactions with other characters indicate that he is projecting a false image of toughness, the falsity of it reinforced by behaviors that are anything but tough, and Brody's use of incorrect grammar paints him as a person of inferior education. Works cited Athanasourelis, John Paul. Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: The Hard- Boiled Detective Transformed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep. [...]