The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

by Dashiell Hammett

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The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby Liz » Fri Feb 24, 2012 1:07 pm

The violence amongst family members and friends seems to be no big deal.

Comment on that.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby nebraska » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:38 pm

I noticed that Mimi seemed to be quite harsh with Dorothy, and nobody seemed to get terribly upset about it. I was surprised that Dorothy showed up with visible signs of abuse and it seemed to be taken as a normal part of daily life. :-O

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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby fireflydances » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:53 pm

Intimate violence, where it's okay to strike a lover or family member "for their own good" is something that used to a have a currency I think. At least growing up all those Three Stooges movies and The Little Rascals, to name just two, certainly advanced that line of thought. Like we see in The Thin Man, people hit people without much consideration. You got whupped at home, disciplined in school and roughed up if you fell into the hands of officials attempting to explore questions of who, what, where and how. Why was it okay to be physically rough with people then? What was in their heads or not in their heads?

I don't think there was much discussion of human rights. Children belonged to their parents, women to their husbands. The rights of the state as defenders of order, in the form of teachers or cops, was simply given more weight. But it's more than the legal stuff. I don't think there was the sense of the individual that we have now. The individual was part of something larger not the center of something unique. We've become more and more precise in defining what it means to be human, perhaps as we've come to understand more completely the biological, cosmological wonder of the self. Maybe too it had something to do with the world being a more rough and tumble place, or at least -- there were many more of us who led rough, close to the bone lives, then. Inexplicable things happened all the time: children lost to disease, to accidents, families separated by oceans and land masses. Unfair things that blindly ignored what should have happened. So getting socked was just part of the equation.

What's interesting is Nora's voice in contrast to this. Nora is looking for justice, and asking basically why isn't it happening. Maybe that's Hammett little editorial: this is the way it is, but how should it be?
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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:01 pm

What's interesting is Nora's voice in contrast to this. Nora is looking for justice, and asking basically why isn't it happening. Maybe that's Hammett little editorial: this is the way it is, but how should it be?


:highfive: Could be, Firefly. Authors are always putting in their two-cents worth on everyday occurrences.

I'm sure Hammett saw a lot of things in his life and used writing to express his satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the world.

Unfortunately, when people look at books, plays, movies, etc., they just see the violence...they don't see the message.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:57 am

fireflydances wrote:I don't think there was the sense of the individual that we have now. The individual was part of something larger not the center of something unique.

Very well said.
Now, the question is, has society benefited from this emphasis on the individual or has the 'something larger' suffered great harm? :perplexed:

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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby Liz » Sat Feb 25, 2012 12:52 pm

I'd like to think we're better off, Nebraska.

I think that there was an attitude back then that pretty much anything short of murder was allowed in families......like you didn't really get involved in a family's little problems. They were private and you let the family deal with it as they saw fit.

And I'd like to think that it was Hammett's social commentary. But he even had Nick punch Nora so that she'd be out of the line of fire. Wasn't there another way to do it? I was so shocked when he did that.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby ladylinn » Sat Feb 25, 2012 1:12 pm

I too was wondering why no one came to defend Dorothey when it seemed clear that she was abused by Mimi. Also agree with what has been said that what happened in families was their own private business. Nicks' punch to Nora also surprized me and I didn't care for it. Did Hammetts use of the word "punch" have another meaning? Hopefully we as a society have evolved.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby Fairy » Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:11 pm

I was surprised about the abuse of Dorothey and no one doing anything against it. What I didn't worry about was Nick's punch as it was done for protection.
But what occupies me much more is the mentioning of friends in your question. Can't remember that there are friends... acquaintances yes, but friends? So I started to wonder about the importance of real friendship in this book.

What I don't think is that we as a society are over the attitude of keeping strictly to our own buisiness. Too many examples... A kid starved to death in an appartment house and nobody seemed to have noticed... Many stories like that. Or a tramp being punched at a train station full of people and nobody comes to help him...
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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby Liz » Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:46 pm

Fairy,

Yes, today, we've come along way.

And you have a point about my referring to them as "friends." I guess many of them were just acquaintances. But what do you call someone that you've had a lot of history with that is not necessarily a friend, but definitely more than an acquaintance?
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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby shadowydog » Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:56 pm

I think it is important to keep it in the context of the time. Hammett worked for the Pinkertons during the time they were used to heap violence on workers trying to gain some rights. A lot of what we take for granted today in terms of protection from violence didn't exist during that timeframe.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby WM63 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:42 pm

I was surprised by the violence as well. The fact that Gilbert was experimenting on Dorothy with morphine caused me to wonder if these so called mother beatings were staged somehow. I had a hard time accepting the Nick's final verdict. I really came to wonder if they all came together to stage the murder with each one having their own part. My imagination really went wild with that for some reason.

The violence waged by the police against suspects is something I think Hamment wanted to portray to show those who did not know about these things maybe, or as a mirror to reflect back at the establishment. It was certainly a different time.

I also found it interesting that Gilbert defended his mother against Nick when she was having what I assume was an epilectic seizure. Gilbert was not portrayed as having much strength, but the policeman who found him coming into Julia's apartment described him as being tougher than he looked.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:02 pm

Good point about the police violence, WM63. It seemed to be expected and accepted as well as the family violence. Different times to be sure.

Gilber was a bit of an enigma for me. I wasnt' sure where his character was going but you're right that he stuck up for her.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby fansmom » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:51 pm

Well, and isn't it odd that Mimi physically abused Dorothy but not Gilbert? Remember Gilbert's (very odd) interest in what it feels like to be hurt?

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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:49 am

True, fansmom. Perhaps it was the male/female dynamic from the time. With men playing the more dominant role perhaps it was less prevalent. Although that Miriam swung a mean frying pan! :-O
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Re: The Thin Man Question #5 - Violence

Unread postby fireflydances » Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:24 pm

I am still interested in the violence. It's not that I think any form of physical abuse within either the family or hierarchical violence, as in "I can hit you because I'm in charge" is appropriate. It's more the off handed nature that we had in this country towards all kinds of petty violence, the being whacked kind of thing, the resolving of childhood disputes with a sock, the playful fighting tradition. How are we changed in our heads because we don't do this anymore?

I wonder if Hammett was mindful of violence as a thing to be avoided or if, like many others of that era, he was not particularly concerned about it? I think the latter. Then I wonder if that way was worse than our way? My childhood took place on the cusp of change. I was raised with discipline that was quick and stinging but by the time I was grown that habit was largely frowned upon.

I wonder mostly about how "mental" we've become about everything. So many things are played out in the brain or in words. So much can't be done because the stakes immediately escalate to violence with objects, not hands. It's just that I bet anything that we physically touch people less these days than people used to. We are so self conscious. And it's getting worse because of the little 'communication' devices we are plugged into. We ARE communicating but it is highly abstracted, non physical, ethereal. Even the games our children are allowed to play are less physical. Perhaps we are evolving, becoming less animal and more ..... what?
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