Kevin Chaffee


The hard-boiled detective story ushered in a revolution in the mystery story. The older "formal" mystery story saw society as a benevolent, ordering force which the detective restored by catching the murderer, while the hard-boiled mystery portrayed society as corrupt, wild and flawed, and presented an implicit criticism of it. The three best writers of the hard-boiled school, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald, show an ethical progression, a turning outward, from the personal, inwardly focused ethics of Hammett's characters to the outwardly turned moral understanding of Macdonald's hero.

Dashiell Hammett writes of an ironic, tough world that the detective accepts because he cannot change it. Hammett's detectives have a strong private code which forms a bulwark against the chaos of society. The detective cannot depend on anything outside himself, so these personal ethics help the detective survive, but he remains isolated and apart from society.

Raymond Chandler's detective turns the focus of his ethics slightly outward. His code is personal, but he believes in ideals outside himself and works towards them. He has honor and truly wants to help those in need, and his code embodies the world as he thinks it should be. He cannot accept the corruption of the world, remaining isolated because of his personal stand against it.

Ross Macdonald's detective has partaken of the world, and has been tainted but not corrupted. Instead he has a greater understanding of people's failures. He also has a personal code, but his emphasis is on helping others understand themselves and their actions. Thus Macdonald focuses the ethical spotlight outside of his detective, on the forces in life that make people go bad.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

Frank Knittel

Second Advisor

Robert Dunn

Third Advisor

Grosvenor Fattic

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Hammett; Dashiell; 1894-1961; Chandler; Raymond; 1888-1959; Macdonald; Ross; 1915-1983; Detective and mystery stories; American; American fiction

Subject - Local

Loma Linda University. English Program -- Dissertations.



Page Count

iii; 91

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website


Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives