Death and Co. – Dashiell Hammett

The short story “Death & Co.” by Dashiell Hammett was a detective fiction-based story that involves the detective or the narrator going through a series of events in order to get to the final climax. The story is in the series “Continental Ops” and became a famous series in the 20th century. The story goes like this, A case was turned in from Chappell receiving a letter demanding ransom for Chappell’s wife.

However, the deal was only half completed which results in a misunderstanding that causes the narrator to end with the wrong suspect. Upon proving not guilty, the detective finally understands that Chappell was the murderer all along. Dashiell Hammett was an American writer. He was born in Maryland, USA, and grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. From his teen and young years, he had a variety of jobs that does not require too much thinking. This stopped until he became an operative for the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, which would give him material and experience for his later short stories narrated by the nameless “Continental Op”. He also served as a sergeant in both World Wars. But it was between the wars that he became well known for his famous detective fiction.

His writing is very much unique compared to the other detective novels in different ways. He mainly wrote hard-boiled crime fiction stories. Hard-boiled fiction is a different way the story is told, it contains more graphic scenes and rather quick paces dialogues. It is rather different than classic English mystery detective story. It has its own style. One of the famous masterpieces created by Dashiell Hammett’s people renown is” The Maltese Falcon” A typical American hard-boiled story about a person named Sam Spade. This has also lead to lots of other novels being created late in the 20th century.

The literary movement of this story is partly romanticism and. Romanticism is a fiction story and it’s more about the imagination rather than logic. This is only partly close to the story since the story did include lots of logic that contradicts the movement. The story is fake on the other hand, it was created as story fictional detective story by means to show the challenges that undergo an investigation as the author had experience being an Operative in the agency that greatly produced things for him to write from his past of investigating in crimes.

This story mainly focuses on building tension as it had lots of tropes in it. For example, the red herring used in the story builds tension towards the final ending. It was set up by the murderer and misleads the audience into thinking that the murderer has been found and the story will end.

However, there’s more to just the end of the story. This causes suspense to build up. Moreover, there are more tropes inside that causes tension to build up. The trope double cross shows betrayal in the story which creates tension in the story to the audience as the end reveals the suspect was betrayed and framed by the murderer. This puts shock into the audience as the result is they what they have expected. Furthermore, this tone changes throughout the play that also creates tension through the difference in the sentence structures.

As the story goes on, the tension in the story builds up then releases in more of a negative way. At the start of the story, the tone is calm which is not normal in most detective stories. The long sentence structure in the paragraph shows that the mood of each character is calm, yet serious. Then, the tone is exciting and fast-paced which then creates excitement within the audience when they have found the 1st suspect and had exchanged fire at each other. The variation in the sentence structure or the short sentence here shows action and excitement being presented to the audience. However, at the end, the tone is more of a disappointment than satisfaction. Here the long sentences in the paragraph suggest the relief from the downfall of the suspect and the unsatisfactory mood when they discover it’s the wrong person they went down all this time.

The theme of this story written by the author is quite obvious as he is trying to show that everything will be solved, no matter how long and how many events they had to go through to get to the final point. Which may or may not convey a message saying everyone will find out the bad things people did in the past thinking they can hide them and conceal them.

Overall, this story was one of the first few hard-boiled stories that Dashiell Hammett wrote. It is partly romanticism due to the fact that it does require the character to think logically and in the story, the author does attempt to build up the tension by using tropes. The reason for his success in his stories was that he had been working similarly to the characters in the series “Continental ops” which provided him experiences and resources that help him write about his story.

By James Yeh – E2 Honors Class


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