Hard-boiled detective fiction sets the scene for a cold and harsh reality. Dashiell Hammett’s, “The Girl with The Silver Eyes” is no exception to this rule. In this short story Hammett paints a picture of a brutally realistic urban center filled with characters that not many people would want to call friends. The realistic qualities of Hammett’s story are drawn from his own life’s experience working as a Pinkerton detective. The detective in “The Girl With The Silver Eyes” works for the Continental Detective Agency and is, therefore, known simply as the Continental Op. In the beginning of the story the Op professes, “a detective, if he is wise, takes pains to make and keep as many friends as possible among transfer company, express company and railroad employees” (27). This paper will examine this philosophy of the Continental Op, how he employs this approach to detective work and uncover if this approach is beneficial or disadvantageous.
The Continental Op is an unsympathetic character with a stickler attitude to his work. The Op believes that the case he is about to take is legitimate but states that, “I am only a hired man and have to go by the rules” (23). At the core of this statement is a man that is unwilling to bend the rules outlined by his company. People who always follow the rules are often seen as trust worthy and at the same time difficult to get along with. When you know a person is always going to go by the book, like the Op, it makes their actions predictably frustrating. Things could go a lot faster if a person were to cut a corner or two and help out. By doing this the detective might have made himself more likable to his new client. The Op shows no desire to perform this way to have friends on his side. The Op also shows no sympathetic feelings toward his client, Burke Pangburn. Upon meeting Mr. Pangbun, who was in obvious distress, the Op wants nothing more than to have Burke, “babble himself empty of words” (20). The P.I. does not care that his prospective client is visibly upset by the disappearance of his love, Miss Jeanne Delano.
The detective in “The Girl With The Silver Eyes” can be describes as being very clinical and curt in his approach to the people he works with. The Continental Op bases everything on direct observation of the situation, largely discouraging the small details that people want to include. The Op asks Burke Pangburn to describe Miss Delano****
The Continental Op believes in taking, “pains to make and keep as many friends as possible among transfer company, express company and railroad employees” (27). His method of going about his detective work depends on this philosophy. Without the help of the people he calls ‘friends’ the P.I. would be unable to get the information that he needs to solve his cases. The people that the Op refers to as friends are people that he pays or forcible converses into helping him. While hot on the trail the detective finds himself at the Marquis Hotel and in...