Summary of The Eternal Sleep

In the field of American crime literature, the novel written by Raymond Chandler is known as The Big Sleep. It was first published in 1939 thanks to the work of Alfred A. Knopf.

About the work

Although The Eternal Dream is the author’s debut within the genre of the crime novel in the United States, the way it structures the story, the way in which the plot becomes complicated until it reveals a whole world of connections and mysteries, as well as the subtle humor with which the author presents some characters and moments, have made this novel one of the most representative stories of this current, as well as a worldwide reference.

In fact, I create so much impact on the public, and it was so well received by readers that Hollywood couldn’t miss the opportunity to bring this story to the big screen. Thus, in 1946, the film The Eternal Dream, directed by Howard Hawks, and the performance of Humphrey Bogart were released. Thirty-two years later, in 1978, another version was released, which also bore the name of The Great Dream, directed by Michael Winner and the main performance by Robert Mitchum.

Likewise, The Eternal Dream -or The Great Dream as the title of this novel has also been translated- represents the story in which Raymond Chandler creates his character the detective Phillip Marlowe, who would later become one of his most iconic and recognized characters.

Summary of The Eternal Dream

With respect to its content, it can basically be said that this novel tells how the research entrusted by General Sternwood to Detective Phillip Marlowe begins to become more and more complicated, allowing not only the knowledge of a rich plot of characters and relationships, but also leaves in evidence the vices of the American high society of the first decades of the twentieth century.

This is how the reader will learn that General Sternwood has had no choice but to resort to Marlowe, to help him get rid of Geiger, a bookseller who pretends to blackmail this general, using the information he has about the problem that has with the game his youngest daughter, Carmen Sternwood, who is also believed to owe a great debt to this individual.

On the other hand, his eldest daughter, Vivien, does not escape the field of worries for his father, General Sternwood, who also asks him from Marlowe, to please help him find Rusty Regan, Vivien’s husband, and who has disappeared, although everything points to the fact that he has actually fled with the lover of a dangerous gangster from the city of Los Angeles, where the story takes place.

Likewise, this arm of the investigation will finally lead Marlowe to develop romantic feelings towards the eldest of the general’s daughters.

In this way, the novel begins its plot, which in principle shows a routine investigation, which seems to be easily resolved by Marlowe, who from the beginning is presented as a skillful and perceptive detective. However, this is only a deception for the reader, as the story immediately becomes much more complex.

In fact the turning point occurs when Geiger, General Sternwood’s alleged extortionist, is surprisingly murdered. To make matters worse, the murder of this man occurs in no less than Carmen’s apartment, who is also found half-naked and under the effects of some psychotropic substances. Her astute instinct tells Marlowe that the investigation is actually about to begin.

This is how his first steps as a detective, after Geiger’s murder, lead him to find a camera, which nevertheless strangely has no photographic film in it. By following this trail, Marlowe discovers that the camera film is actually held by Je Brody. Also, the mystery will increase, revealing an atmosphere of danger, where it is not known who will be the next victim of murder, even though everything points to Marlowe may be himself.

Similarly, the novel leads this accurate detective to discover that the man behind the shot that ended Geiger’s life is Owen Taylor, driver of General Sternwood, who also had the film of the camera, until Joe Brody, hit him and took it off, then leave him unconscious in his car, leave this without brakes and drive him to a water source where Taylor will also find death.

As the story itself points out, the owner of the photos, now Joe Brody wants to blackmail the general, telling him that if he doesn’t do what he says, then he will show the photos he has about his daughter Carmen, which directly implicate Geiger’s murder.

After some confusing events, where Brody himself is also killed by Carol Lundgren, Marlowe’s investigation concentrates on finally finding Regan, the husband of General Sternwood’s eldest daughter. Following this man’s trail, Marlowe also meets Eddie Mars, the owner of a gambling house, where he assiduously attends Vivian, who seems to have a weakness for the game, like his sister Carmen.

Although Mars is initially quite receptive to Marlowe, he changes his attitude drastically when this detective starts asking questions about Regan’s wall. According to what Marlowe can find out the change of attitude is because everyone believes that this man has actually run away with who was Mars’s wife. So too, the detective discovers two rather suspicious things: neither Vivian nor Mars seem interested in finding each other’s husbands.

Marlowe insists a little more in his inquiries, until he gets to know how Mars has managed to convince Vivian that her sister Carmen has murdered Regan, information he has used to make this woman, protecting her sister, work for his benefit. Also, Marlowe manages to discover that Mars’s wife, in reality hasn´t fled with Regan, but is kept hidden, to help disguise the version that has been propagated, to justify Regan’s absence. As a result, Marlowe begins to suspect that Regan has also been murdered, and that Mars himself is responsible.

It is so close that this detective is finally solving the whereabouts or the author of Regan’s murder, that Marlowe ends up being captured by Mars’ men, who lead him to Geiger’s house, which has so far served as a refuge for Mars’ wife, who has hidden there to help sustain the version that she has escaped with the much sought after Regan.

In this house is also Vivian, who by the pressure she has on herself from Mars to accuse her sister Carmen of the murder of her husband, serves this gangster loyally. However, this woman has developed during the plot a strong attraction, mutual, to detective Marlowe, who in the middle of his captivity manages to establish a connection with Vivian, convincing her to abandon her loyalty to Mars, and help him, who after all is in love.

For this, Marlowe begins to tell Vivian what are the things that have led him to suspect that Regan has indeed been killed, but that under no circumstances has been his sister Carmen, but that the main suspect who has led his investigation is Mars himself. Feeling that he has freed himself from his responsibility to this gangster, Vivian then decides to help detective Marlowe.

Very nervous, but convinced that she is doing the right thing, this woman helps and joins Marlowe’s gang. However, the new allies can not leave their captivity so easily, but must first face the men of Mars, and this same mafia. The confrontation leads to a gunfight, but the situation is so confusing that one of Mars’ men ends up hurting him by mistake.

As is to be suspected, the hero, the detective Marlowe manages to escape with Vivian of this situation, coming out successful, but with the total certainty that what until now for him was a simple family affair, of an authoritarian father trying to put in order the life of his not at all judicious daughters, is actually the tip of the iceberg of a rather corrupt social class, where murder, gambling debts and even a clandestine pornography industry are just some of the dishonest practices that members of this class usually have as vices.

Image: signature of Raymond Chandler, author of The Eternal Dream / Source:

Summary of The Eternal Sleep
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Bibliography ► (October 31, 2019). Summary of The Eternal Sleep. Bogotá: E-Cultura Group. Recovered from