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April 03 , 2010

The Femme Fatale in Raymond Chandler's 'The Big Sleep'


According to Janey Place, 'the dark lady, the spider woman, the evil seductress who tempts man and brings about his destruction is among the oldest themes of art, literature, mythology and religion in western culture.' She appears in many different forms and many different situations. In the following, I will have a look at the origins of the femme fatale as she is depicted in The Big Sleep. In the first part of the essay I will concentrate on the main female characters and try to find out who appears as a femme fatale. In the second part I will work out that in forming the character of his femme fatale Raymond Chandler borrowed from a common narrative motif, especially from antique Greek and biblical sources. I will have a look at certain antique stories which I cannot retell here, such as the Greek Medea tale, Homer's Odyssey, the story of Medusa and the biblical Adam and Eve and Joseph stories. In the third part of this essay I will have a look at how the femme fatale is set into the city of film noir and how the city again is similar to mythology.

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