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.

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