Isabella’s Long Paper Outline

Moments of nakedness in The Maltese Falcon and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

Two instances where a male character makes a female character strip, and examines her body: Spade searches Brigid for the missing thousand-dollar bill and does not find it; Mundin searches Yoyo’s body for something exciting, but ends up disappointed (“all Mundin did was shrug his shoulders with disappointment. ‘You’re just like dolls,’ he observed.” P. 235). Even though it seems like the moments are very different—the characters in one story are jaded murderers, and in the other innocent children—the moments are actually eerily similar. In both, the female body is seen as an object that serves as part of a larger transaction. Both strip searches are turning points in the male-female relationship, irreparably breaking the characters’ bond.

  • Examination of the moment when Spade makes Brigid strip in the bathroom, after the thousand-dollar bill goes missing
    • Brigid says “I’m not ashamed to be naked before you, but—can’t you see?—not like this. Can’t you see that if you make me you’ll—you’ll be killing something?”
    • She doesn’t want to, but he has the power, so she does it with as much dignity as she can:
      • “drew herself up tall” “without fumbling” “pride without defiance or embarrassment”
      • but he’s embarrassed her, and betrayed their trust
      • he’s using her as a pawn in his game with Gutman
    • then she goes to the kitchen to make the men food; she doesn’t even get to be part of the men’s discussion/transaction; she’s served her purpose
    • right after he tells her he will send her to jail, the ultimate betrayal
    • “Tell me the truth. Would you have done this to me if the falcon had been real and you had been paid your money?” she asks him
    • he loves her, maybe, but that’s not enough; he’s too calculating
    • he keeps repeating “I won’t play the sap for you” (echoes of “played me for a sucker” Marcus)
    • making her strip is betrayal, a power move and she’s powerless
    • he’s operating alone, without her
  • “The Human Body” chapter where Mundin makes Yoyo strip in exchange for toys
    • this is where Yoyo and Mundin separate
    • chapter starts with “We were the only boy-girl pair, and as we grew older, Mami and Mundin’s mother…encouraged a separation between us”
      • loss of innocence
      • the boy and girl realize they are different
      • the “human body” splits in half, cannot be put back together as it was
    • Mundin promises to give Yoyo Human Body doll if she pulls down her pants
      • “I gave my cousin a defiant look as I lifted up my cowboy skirt, tucked it under my chin, and yanked my panties down” p. 235
      • his “intrusive glances”
      • Meanwhile he’s working the clay snake (phallic)
    • Both children invoke higher power of the “guardia” to explain their actions
      • Spade and Brigid are also acting under threat of “higher” authorities who might do them harm, specifically Gutman and the SF police (someone must take the fall)
    • Scheherazade story that Yoyo reads, the woman captivating the man to save her life p. 232
      • Parallels with Brigid, who tries to hold Spade captive emotionally to save her own skin
      • “captive audience” that Mundin has p. 232


Isabella —

I love this odd and entirely unexpected point of comparison.  Yes, the strip-searching of Brigid is a pivotal moment in The Maltese Falcon, one that captures Brigid at her most vulnerable.  (It has to be said, though, that vulnerability is not always Brigid’s defining trait; more often than not, others are vulnerable to her depredations, killed or injured by her.)  Against this absolute turning point, the nakedness of Yoyo in front of Mundin seems almost episodic: it is an event that we take note of, but not the most critical or memorable moment in the novel.  In fact, the invocation of the “guardia”in that scene brings to mind a much more dramatic moment, involving Carlos and the two SIM agents, perhaps occupying the same structural position in HGGLTA as the strip-searching of Brigid does in MF.

Comments are closed.