42 pages 1 hour read

Raymond Chandler

The Long Goodbye

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1953

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Symbols & Motifs

Los Angeles

In The Long Goodbye, the city of Los Angeles becomes a symbol of the fractured nature of society. The repressed social trauma, the hidden violence, and the disparity between the rich and the poor take on a physical form, separating the disparate parts of the society into atomized, isolated communities. As Marlowe drives from one place to another, the vast distances between the communities represent the distances between the people. Rather than a single, coherent society, Los Angeles represents a cluster of fractured communities, forced to live vastly different lives in general proximity to one another. The emptiness of the city symbolizes the emptiness of this atomized from of existence. The inhabitants are encouraged to keep their pain to themselves and hide their trauma from their communities, retreating further and further into their small communities until they have no tangible connections with the world outside. Marlowe’s exploration of the city becomes a symbolic investigation of social alienation, as he discovers the atomizing effects of capitalism and the toll it has taken on society.

The city is always expanding, modernizing, and seeking to swallow up relics of the past such as Verringer’s ranch. The ranch is a retreat for artists. Verringer explains to Marlowe that he allowed artists to use his ranch to sober up and create art.