Miller’s Crossing and the Road to Poisonville.

In his comment here, Paul talks about the connection of ethics in Miller’s Crossing and Red Harvest. He commented on how “Johnny Caspar talked a lot about ethics in Miller’s Crossing” and how “it was fascinating to see criminals debating ethics”. I think ethics in noir films and novels are one of the most interesting elements. It is interesting to see how in traditional detective novels, it is the detective who has the ethics (think Sherlock Holmes) and the criminals who lack morals. But in noir, ethics are no where to be found. Which why it is so interesting to hear Caspar debating ethics and “double crossing” of associates. In Red Harvest, the Continental Op advises his associates to leave their ethics at the door, and it is evident that this is necessary to succeed in this world. When we see ethics in Miller’s Crossing, we eventually see ruin. Caspar stops the Dane from killing Tommy on the grounds of never double crossing an ally, but in the end this is the undoing of Caspar’s reign. We see this again when Tommy decides to have mercy on Bernie, since that one comes back to haunt him as well. The issue of ethics in these novels and films is not necessarily that they are the downfall on their own, but that they are the downfall when no one else is thinking the same thing. If Bernie had the same sort of ethics as Tommy, letting him live would have been a swell idea. This leads to the question of society and it’s influence on ideology in others. If everyone were to adhere to the ethics that the Continental Op came in with, would there have been as high of a murder count? Probably not, but then again it wouldn’t be noir, would it?

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