Red Reactions, Part II

It’s over now, but it seems like an unfair ending. The gangsters are dead, and now Elihu can rule his town once more. Is this “good”? We’re not really sure. One of the things about this novel that I noticed the most was the blurred line between right and wrong. In class last week, Jim Groom pointed out that Helen is the only one referred to as “crazy”. If one were to really take a look at the Continental Op, I think it’s safe to say that he is pretty certifiable himself. As the book explodes to the end, we see him finding joy and satisfaction in his mass killing spree. It may be for the good of the town, but he is most certainly enjoying the job. That’s another point that trips me up. Is it really for the good of the town? Is Old Elihu really that much better for the town? Hammett describes Elihu as owning the town, half the state and a couple of senators and representatives. In today’s society, we see this sort of control as wrong, or at least as a sort of representation of “the man”. So Elihu is not presented as a fair leader either. Yet, we start off rooting for the Continental Op, simply because he is trying to get Poisonville in “order”. This novel questions ethics, and just as the Continental Op advises us to leave our morals at the door, Hammett asks us to question what it is exactly we are leaving there.

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