The Little Yellow Dog & The Long Goodbye
Every human being must have a set of moral codes. These morals are usually set out by the people and environments that one finds themselves surrounded by. Easy Rawlins, the main protagonist in The Little Yellow Dog by Walter Mosely, is exposed to crime at an early age, and is surrounded by it for most of his life. On the other hand, Philip Marlowe, the main protagonist in The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, grows up in a peaceful and pleasant environment. His first experiences with crime occur when he becomes a private investigator. As adults, both of these men find themselves involved in criminal activity. In their attempts to seek the true justice that they deserve, they are forced to defy the law. In doing so, they experience many physical challenges, including gang beatings and police intimidation. They also experience numerous mental challenges, including lying to the police, deceiving their own families, and the ability to cope with all the chaos that is surrounding them. In addition to being challenged physically and mentally, they are also socially challenged: Marlowe and Rawlins both feel that they are looked down upon due to their occupations. By the end of their journeys, both characters feel that defying the law can be the only way of achieving true justice.
Marlowe and Rawlins both experience immense physical challenges. At one point in The Little Yellow Dog, Rawlins finds himself mixed up in a murder case. The police suspect Easy to be withholding information simply because he is black. He is escorted through the basement of the Hollywood Police Station, where it is described as thirty or so men living in cages underground. Like livestock waiting for some further shame to be laid on them. Like sharecroppers or slaves living in shanty shacks on the edge of a plantation. (Mosely 148). Rawlins is appalled by the brutality that surrounds him. Terrible isn t it, Mr. Rawlins (Mosely 152) the captain asks Easy, yes it is (Mosely 152) he replies, for he knows the entire reason for him to be escorted through is a setup (Mosely 154). It is obvious to Easy that the police are attempting to exploit the jail. Rawlins again endures physical punishment when he is clubbed on the head by a group of gangsters. And then a heavy weight came down on the back of my head. The moon broke into several sections and my mind tried to go sideways, looking for a way to keep conscious. (Mosely 187). The continuing abuse that Rawlins receives demonstrates his belief in obtaining true justice, not just for himself, but for all of society. The same is seen in The Long Goodbye, when Philip Marlowe shows his dedication for true justice by protecting the identity of his client, Terry Lennox, who is accused of murder. During a police interrogation that quickly becomes out of hand, Marlowe is hit on the side of the neck with a fist like a piece of iron (Chandler 47) by the unruly police captain. At the same time as Marlowe is leaving the interrogation room, the captain proceeds to spit in the face of Marlowe. (Chandler 50). Both Rawlins and Marlowe s commitment to true justice is exemplified through their endurance of physical brutality.
Once a person develops a specific code of ethics, it is very difficult to break this code. The actions that Easy Rawlins and Philip Marlowe undertake challenge their morals. These two investigators are compelled to choose, time after time, between the good of society, and their own health and family life. While Easy enters a new life as a parent, he attempts to leave behind his past of crime and injustice. He looks out for, and only wants the best for his children. Easy says, the board of education didn t pay much in way of salary, but my kids had medical insurance, and I was living a life I could be proud of. (Mosely 11-12). Easy feels that he must not tell his family about his recent interactions with crime. I staggered across the floor with Feather and slumped down on the couch. I buried my head in Feather s chest, too sad to even cry. Bonnie came to hold us, and so did my son. My lungs were burning and my throat was sore from choked tears. (Mosely 294). Rawlins knows that if his family were to find out what he had been involved in, their attitudes towards him would change a great deal, and that was a risk [he] wasn t willing to take. (Mosely 36). Similarly, the mental challenge that Marlowe must encounter occurs when he chooses to stand on his rights (Chandler 56) by remaining in jail. The lawyer that is chosen to represent Marlowe is able to set him free, but Marlowe stays in jail by choice. Marlowe s sacrifice of his own freedom allows his client, Mr. Lennox, to maintain his innocence. The lawyer, Endicott, scolds Marlowe for being pretentious and tells him that to play the big scene (Chandler 56) is redundant because the law isn t justice. It s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up the answer. (Chandler 56). To tolerate and conform to the injustices of the legal system are against Marlow s ethics.
As private investigators, Marlowe and Rawlins both feel that society doesn t give them the credit and respect that they deserve. Despite this, both of these men perform their duties with pride and devotion. Easy Rawlins becomes tired of the disrespect that is cast on him by much of society. At one point in the police station, one of the officers glances at Easy and there was a start of recognition in his eyes; recognition that was quickly replaced by suspicion. (Mosley 28). As extremely biased and prejudiced people, the police officers quickly turn their suspicion towards Easy. Being relentlessly pushed, Easy even considers giving up his search entirely. A chance at a new life .I would be willing to gamble everything for that chance. (Mosely 92). At this point, the only factor that is keeping Easy from losing entire hope is his ruthless pursuit of justice. In Philip Marlowe s case, as he says to one of his friends, I m a licensed private investigator and I have been for quite a while. I m a lone wolf, unmarried, getting middle-aged, and not rich. I like liquor and women and chess and a few other things. The cops don t like me too well, but I know a couple I get along with. I m a native son, born in Santa Rosa, both parents dead, no brothers or sisters, and when I get knocked off in a back alley sometime, if it happens, as it could to anyone in my business nobody will feel that the bottom has dropped out his or her life. (Chandler 92). As Marlowe is reviewing the significance of his life, he realizes where he stands as a human being, and remains indifferent to the fact that he will be easily forgotten if he is killed. Instead of Marlowe caring about the external regards he could receive from people, he cares about the internal recognition he receives from serving his community. Marlowe and Rawlins both humbly accept the societal abuse forced on them, and candidly carry on.
On any given day, any given person can be faced with an insurmountable number of challenges. For Easy Rawlins and Philip Marlowe, in their quest for true justice, they are forced to defy the law in many ways. With their defiance comes numerous challenges. Included in these challenges are ones of physical, mental, and social significance. They battle to the best of their abilities, not for themselves, but for the greater good of society. As men, these two surpass both the expectations of their families and society in general.