The Big Sleep Novel Essay Topics

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

~'The Big Sleep~', by Raymond Chandler, is an intricate and exciting novel filled with plot twists and complicated themes. This lesson offers a series of essay topics that will help your students think critically about the novel.

Writing About The Big Sleep

Are you reading Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep with your students? This novel is entertaining and highly sophisticated, dealing with themes about sex and death while following a crew of compelling characters through an intricate narrative. Students are likely to be drawn to the novel's mysteries and excitement, curious to find out how the mysteries will get resolved.

Because The Big Sleep is a very mature read, it is important to scaffold your students' experience of the novel. One way to do this is to have them write essays that help them intellectualize different aspects of the novel. Students will have to read closely and carefully in order to write strong literary essays.

The topics in this lesson will promote critical thinking about The Big Sleep.

Topics About Characters

This section offers topics dealing with the different characters in the novel.

  • Write an essay describing Philip Marlowe's character and how he changes over the course of the novel. Try to understand the extent to which Marlowe is or is not a hero.
  • What are some of the major flaws that characterize General Sternwood, and how do his different character flaws lead to the problems he faces in his life?
  • Compare and contrast Geiger and Regan. Each of these characters impels one of the major plot lines in the novel. Show how they are similar and different from each other, and describe how these similarities and differences lead to the different narratives that develop out of their characters.
  • Focus on Vivian and Carmen Sternwood. Identify what characteristics each of these women represent. What does this say about Chandler's perspective on and presentation of women overall.
  • What makes Eddie Mars such a classic villain or antagonist, and what flaws are emphasized by Chandler via the development of this character?

Topics About Plot

Here, you will find topics that help your students analyze the novel's main events and problems.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account