Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler: Macho Detective Fiction That Screams “Male Gaze”

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Rating: Red StarRed Star

Category: Crime Fiction

Content Warnings: Murder, violence, kidnap, blackmail,  racism and segregation, misogyny, adultery

Synopsis:

Private investigator Phillip Marlowe, a little strapped for cash, is on yet another assignment to track down an adulterous spouse when he runs into Moose Malloy. This cold, violent gangster has a soft spot: a barmaid named Velma whom he was going to marry before being jailed for armed robbery.

Marlowe strikes out to find Velma, but soon uncovers a black hole of gangs, blackmail and corruption in which she may well be lost forever.

Review:

First Page Impressions

My initial impression of Farewell My Lovely was distaste. Through the narrator, Marlowe, a male colonialist gaze seems to pervade the entire novel. Racism and misogyny are rampant right from page one and make for uncomfortable reading.

This novel was put on my crime fiction reading list by a university professor – who is an ardent feminist, so I imagine the idea is for us to critique it rather than accept it! I am looking forward to airing my frustration with a good collective rant in our seminar.

Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler Book Review Pinterest Graphic

Final Page Reflections

The plot of Farewell My Lovely is cleverly written, with that unexpected final twist that can make crime fiction so exciting. Also, I admired Chandler’s unique writing style. The images he uses seem oddly-chosen initially, but create a very powerful effect.

Ultimately, however, I was unable to get past the prejudice described above. As the novel is narrated entirely by Marlowe, readers are never given a respite from his oppressive viewpoint. I failed to connect with him as a character, so the suspense fell flat because I was never invested.

Diversity and Representation

As a white middle-class woman, finding books that I feel represented by has never been much of an issue for me. Reading this bigoted novel, though, and the frustration that came with it, truly brought home the importance of diversity and representation in literature.

Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler Quote
Fund Literacy, Care for the Environment

Themes

  • The American Dream
  • Futility
  • Wealth and corruption
  • Gender roles
  • Love
  • Emotion versus reason
  • Modern culture

Beyond the Book

Considering Raymond Chandler in light of this novel made me question how far we should conflate a story with its author. I tried to give Chandler the benefit of the doubt, but can never be certain whether he deserves condemnation, or whether he sought to portray pernicious views that were not his own.

Continued Contemplation

  1. Do you think Marlowe is presented as a heroic character?
  2. The prejudiced viewpoints that come to light in Farewell My Lovely can make for disturbing reading. How far do you think we can excuse such views as being ‘of their time’ or just plain unacceptable?
  3. Chandler’s story emphasises the American Dream and how it becomes futile for many people. Do you think this jaded pessimism is a realistic portrayal?

Favourite quote:

“You can crab over the morning paper and kick the shins of the guy in the next seat at the movies and feel mean and discouraged and sneer at the politicians but there are a lot of nice people in the world just the same.”

Read if: You are looking for a macho detective story (and don’t mind rolling your eyes a few thousand times)!

Buy Now on Better World Books:

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If you enjoyed Farewell My Lovely, you may also like The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.


Have you read Farewell My Lovely? Do you have any crime fiction recommendations? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!


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2 thoughts on “Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler: Macho Detective Fiction That Screams “Male Gaze”

  1. It’s always tough reading these older books that are riddled with problematic viewpoints; I frequently feel unsure of how to rate them as I wonder do I rate with a modern lens or do I rate it taking into consideration the prevailing viewpoints of the time period when the book was written. Loved reading your thoughts on this. Can imagine you’ll have a very interesting class discussion about this :)))

    Liked by 1 person

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