1 The Maltese Falcon centers on detective Sam Spade, a character almost as elusive as the falcon itself. What aspects of his personality remain mysterious?
2Why does Sam Spade take the case, even though he suspects that “Miss Wonderly” is lying?
3What kind of vision does The Maltese Falcon present of urban America? How important is San Francisco as the novel’s setting?
4Is Sam Spade a hero? How would you describe his personal moral code in a violent world?
5What do the novel’s three women—Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Effie Perine, and Iva Archer—have in common? How different are their personalities and motivations?
6In the 1930s and ’40s mostly male writers adapted the femme fatale-a foxy, dangerous woman-to crime stories. How might a woman have written Brigid differently?
7What motivates Sam Spade to find the falcon? Is he tempted by money or Brigid, or does he merely love the chase?
8Does any character change or grow in The Maltese Falcon?
9Are Sam Spade’s actions in the novel’s final scene consistent with his character? What would you have done in his place?
10Although the reader is never privy to the thoughts of Hammett’s characters, what might the falcon symbolize to each of them based on their actions?