Shelby’s Outline for Final Paper

Premise: In both The Maltese Falcon and The Man in the High Castle, some object arrives that is rooted in or tied to extraordinary historical circumstances—an almost mythical falcon from the time of the Crusades and an explanation of an alternate history, respectively. For lack of a better term at the moment, these two items can be referred to as “sources of legend.”

Working (and rough) thesis: The introduction of these sources of legend—foreign in origin— disturb the rhythm of the city and society, yet nevertheless, or perhaps as a result, manage to reflect some core aspect of the worlds of their respective novels.

I. Coming from a foreign import/visitor

A. As brought to (a) main character’s attention
-the Kasouras mention The Grasshopper to Childan, and they are Japanese to Childan’s native San Franciscan
-Gutman, a man of international origins, explains the history of the falcon to San Franciscan Spade
B. Foreign in creation
-The Grasshopper was written in the Rockies area, technically foreign to the Pacific States, and written by the I Ching, a Chinese import to American culture
-the falcon is from Malta

II. The mixing of reality and fantasy

A. Presented as historical or scholarly
-The Grasshopper is regarded by its readers as systematically taking into account several political figures and movements
-Gutman’s various research sources mentioned when recounting the history of the falcon

B. Considered on various levels to be fiction
-The Grasshopper is very much considered to be a fictional book since it describes an alternate reality
-the story of the falcon turns out to be true, but Spade is skeptical at first and has it verified by a university professor

C. They prove to be surprisingly disruptive in scope
-Reiss, Rita, and Juliana are instantly addicted to and preoccupied by the ideas presented in The Grasshopper
-The falcon is so fantastic that regular investigators and authorities (police, district attorney) are stymied in their efforts to put normal explanations (such as mob wars) on odd occurrences

III. Revealing the truth
-revelation of The Grasshopper being the real truth as opposed to the characters’ reality
-the falcon’s ultimate arrival both reveals the rest of the mystery of who killed whom and the truth of each character’s nature

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One Response to Shelby’s Outline for Final Paper

  1. wcd2 says:

    Shelby —

    A great topic. The falcon and The Grasshopper Lies Heavy are both legendary objects, looming large in their respective novels. One difference is that, while everyone in The Man in the High Castle is addicted to The Grasshopper, this is not true of the falcon: Gutman is consumed by it, Brigid less so, and Spade even less. For these two, the falcon means nothing more than a monetary value, which says something about the world Dashiell Hammett has created. Philip K. Dick’s world, on the other hand, is much less monetized. Furthermore, there’s another legendary object here that is equally engrossing, the I-Ching, an ancient and foreign-made artifact with enormous power over virtually all the characters, Japanese, German, American. I’d love to see a discussion triangulated among these three legendary objects: the falcon, The Grasshopper, and the I-Ching.

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