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Since the beginning of the era, women’s roles have taken a front-row seat in the modern twentieth century to the current day, which has since been ever-changing. Raymond Chandler’s works have proven this time and time again as he focuses on the attitudes, dress, and themes behind the women of the 1930’s and encapsulates their motives within his characters. The inferred unnatural reversal of roles found throughout Raymond Chandler’s ‘Red Wind’ ultimately alludes to the feminist movement taking place at the time of the 1930’s, as well as the concept of femme fatale and dozens of devastating blows to 1930’s masculinity. Though Chandler had a fondness of incorporating the power of sexual attraction and the assertion of masculinity over women, the dilemmas of the time seemed to soil these gender norms and bring forth a new topic to light; the 1930’s dominant woman.
In Chandler’s ‘Red Wind’, the tension between Marlowe and Lola is apparent in all aspects of the story, making it a classic example of a femme fatale detective piece. Toward the beginning of the story, Lola is swooped up by Marlowe when he recognizes her bolero jacket and straw hat (Chandler 5). Marlowe’s convincing statement to Lola that the police were looking for her and his effective maneuvers to lure her into his apartment strategically displays how elusive he is to a woman’s grip. Marlowe is also a stereotypical supplement to how a man’s charming good looks and desirable talk seem to have a devastating effect on women. It is at this point when Lola sees Marlowe’s chess setup, which ultimately acts as the storyline of the detective piece.
The chessboard acts as Marlowe’s setting, and he feels as though he is the knight, aiming to take steps forward and avoid stepping back. The femme fatale is further amplified when Marlowe fails to take advantage of Lola in the car after their engagement in a passionate kiss. His legendary quote, “You go home now,” (Chandler 17), is telling of his constant drive to fulfill somewhat of a knight-like honor. Not only did Marlowe fail to take advantage of Lola once again when she mentioned her separation with her husband, but he hid the fact that the pearls given to her from her past husband had only been high-quality fake. His last move, throwing the real pearls into the Pacific Ocean, ultimately settles the fact that his gallant and gentleman-like drive for dignity causes him to denounce her in the name of knight-like honor (William Marling). It is in complete contrast of the fairytale ending, as well as the ‘guy-gets-the-girl’ mentality. The chessboard has been set, and Marlowe must play out his knight-like action. Marlowe’s incessant need to constantly reassess his title as “knight” contrasts darkly with, for example, Lola taking on the role of the man and drawing her gun.
This, in short, symbolizes the degradation of masculinity and the man-rescues-woman stereotype with the action of the knight on the chess board taking a couple moves forward and then one move back. Although there are multiple points in the story where it is proven that a woman is seemingly under the man’s word and power, Lola’s inability to solely remove the safety latch off her gone when cocked at Marlowe in his apartment is significant to how far women had yet to come in the 1930’s. The fact that Marlowe states this to her and she does not even realize her safety is on only exemplifies how women were not typically accustomed to being thrown in a man’s position, in this example, holding someone at gunpoint. For example, Frank Barsaly’s repeated use of the word “honeybunch” to keep Miss Kolchenko out of the way of Marlowe’s detective matters illustrates that there was still more work to be done to prove women had equivalent rights to men, and social norms in comparison to gender roles were yet to be conquered (Chandler 21).
The 1930’s was a progressive period for change in gender roles and woman’s rights activists. The women instigating the changes in government even initialized the ‘voluntarist style’ and thus accomplished women’s drive for suffrage (McGerr 864). For example, in her 2014 article, Marino highlights the new ways women are incorporating their ideas to improve in “redressing women’s social, economic and political wrongs,” all within the American government system. (Marino 5).
Foster Hirsch further supplements women of the time and their effect on Noir writing in The Dark Side of the Screen; Film Noir, when he describes how women were “strengthened by their wartime experience” and how “their strength achieved only at the expense of men. ” Lola seems to be lost as the end of the story when her husband tells her they are to separate, however, symbolically, this split represents a new light brought to Lola’s life and women everywhere. Though she does not realize the pearls are fake, the idea of the fraudulent pearls symbolize the exemplification of her marriage and its ultimate demise. By the end of ‘Red Wind,’ Chandler satisfies the reader through the disjunction of Lola’s marriage and instills a sense of hope and freedom in the 1930’s female individual. Through his characters, Chandler defeats the notion that women are property under men, and further justifies that their very credibility is to remain undefined by a man.
The changing times of the 1930’s and the redefinition of a woman’s roles certainly affected Chandler’s writing in a positive-yet-negative way. The idea of a large difference between Miss Kolchenko and Lola would not have been apparent if it had not have been for the newly defined views of a woman, focusing more so on inner beauty than outer beauty, whereas before they would have been classified under the same umbrella; women. The suffrage movement was coming to an end, women were able to work more in the job industry and gain more opportunity. The momentum leading up to the second world war helped to redefine the time and caused Chandler’s “Red Wind” to twist and turn when it came to the ideas of femme fatale Pand masculinity. Without the worldly happenings of these progressive times, who knows- Chandler’s works may not have succeeded at all.
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