The Maltese Falcon

written by Dashiell Hammett

Character Analysis

The protagonist in The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett, is Samuel Spade. Sam Spade is a detective who unknowingly works with the people he is trying to catch. He can always spot trouble and tell when someone is not telling him the truth. For example here Brigid O'Shaughnessy tries to confess that she did not tell the truth, but Sam already knew. "That-that story I told you yesterday was all-a story," ... "Oh, that," Spade said lightly. "We didn't exactly believe your story" (33). Sam Spade appears to be very good at what he does, there is never a mystery that goes unsolved. He was like this throughout the entire story and did not change much, so he could be considered a static character.

Sam Spade can physically be described as pleasant. "He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan" (3). He has pale brown hair, yellow-green eyes, and multiple 'v' can be seen throughout his face. His thick eyebrows formed a v shape, along with his nostrils and mouth. Sam Spade's jaw, which was long and bony, also formed a v shape. The v could be considered a motif throughout his face, according to Dashiell Hammett.

The conflict Samuel Spade is faced with is that he was working with the people who caused the trouble. This is considered a conflict because being close with them prevented him from seeing that they were the culprits. Throughout the story Sam Spade would talk with and make deals with Brigid O'Shaughnessy, Joel Cairo, and Mr. Gutman. Ironically these are the people he turned in to Sergeant Polhaus. In the end he was able to see that they were all responsible, along with a boy named Wilmer who worked for Mr. Gutman. "Here it is: Thursby and Jacobi were shot by a kid named Wilmer Cook. ... He's working for a man named Casper Gutman. ... That fellow Cairo you met here is with them too" (205).

Theme and Setting Development

The theme is well developed in The Maltese Falcon. There is a main theme of greed throughout The Maltese Falcon. This theme is developed throughout the story because many of the characters are greedy and want the falcon for the money. "How much is he willing to buy it for?" he asked. "Ten thousand dollars" (108). Here you can see that people were willing to pay thousands of dollars just to get a hold of the falcon. As the plot develops we see the falcon playing a bigger role in the mystery, we find out that the murders were because people wanted the falcon so bad. This shows the greediness of the characters, and through this we see the development of the themes.

On the contrary the setting is not well developed throughout the story. Dashiell Hammett mentions the city of San Francisco, which is where the story takes place, a few times but it is not developed much. In the beginning of the story we find out that the story is set in San Francisco. "So I came to San Francisco to get her" (5).After that there is not much talk of the city. We can infer that the story is set in the early 1900's over a period of about a week, although we are never actually told this.


I would pan this book. Unless you really enjoy mystery novels I would not recommend it because it was slow and did not hold my interest. Although the ending was difficult to guess, it was not a book that left me at the edge of my seat. I felt like I was reading the book to get through it, not reading it because I enjoyed it. It was well written but it did not keep me reading. Because of this I would pan the book.
By Rachel Camilleri