In Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister (1949), private detective Philip Marlowe is more morose and more disillusioned with his surroundings than ever. Marlowe’s melancholia is a direct result of his relationship to his environment. His perpetual fixation on and revulsion for Los Angeles—particularly his lingering inability to separate his own identity from the city in which he lives and works—leads to internal isolation and a temporary loss of self. This self-imposed social exile makes Marlowe the modernist hero of The Little Sister. It also illustrates a particular characteristic of urban modernity in which the individual is both bound to and at odds with his surroundings. Marlowe is only able to regain his sense of self when he rights his relationship to his environment—that is, when he is able to separate self from setting. Chandler’s novel demonstrates the damaging effects of place attachment, thus undermining the basic tenets of the environmental psychology concept of place-identity. But reading Marlowe’s relationship to Los Angeles through the theoretical lens of environmental psychology also has significant implications for the new modernist studies because it suggests that the spatial and psychological—not only the temporal and cultural—boundaries of modernism are still permeable.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 95-112
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.