In a previous discussion on astrology I presented W.H. Auden as a convincing though in the end inauthentic Aquarius, whose exact birth date falls not under the sign of the Water Bearer, but that of the Fish, Pisces. Therefore I propose that we butterfly stroke out of these murky waters and try something different.
Let’s undergo astrological rebirth! And what better place to do so than in Aries, the first sign of the zodiac cycle, harbinger of new beginnings. This time around, I would like to consider the Arian qualities of a character or two from literature and the books that begot them. That’s right – I’m asserting in a very Arian way that not only does a literary character possess an astrological sign but that a book does too. I would like to inaugurate this study with a profile of four Arians in literature: Sam Spade, his prototype, Odysseus, and the two books that birthed them, The Maltese Falcon and Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey.
Sam Spade, for those of you who don’t know noir, is the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon, published in 1929. From the first page of the book, on which Hammett describes Spade as looking “rather pleasantly like a blond satan,” we know that Spade is a tough, no-nonsense guy with a penchant for trouble, but willing to go to any length to solve a crime, or, in this case, get his hands on the coveted black bird. Odysseus, as you, kind reader, already know, is the great warrior and wanderer who spends much of his adult life overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I am profiling these characters in tandem because when I read The Maltese Falcon, I couldn’t help recalling Odysseus every time that Sam Spade outsmarts an adversary with his cunning and physical strength. It appears that one has begotten the other.
What makes these characters a pair of Aries? A fire sign, the Arian archetype is the Ram. Those born under the sign of the Ram, according to Steven Forrest, astrologer, “come forth into the world armed with intelligence, vitality, and an instinct for survival.” The Arian is a warrior, a daredevil: courageous, assertive, energetic, competitive and often impulsive. Sam Spade is nothing but courageous, daring, and, as his primary love interest Brigid O’Shaughnessy says time and time again, “altogether unpredictable.” When Joel Cairo, also known as "The Levantine," first visits Spade to solicit his services in recuperating what Cairo calls "an ornament……that has been mislaid," a "black figure of a bird," he holds Spade at gunpoint. Spade barely flinches at the threat: "Spade did not look at the pistol. He raised his arms and, leaning back in his chair, intertwined the fingers of his two hands behind his head." During the crisis Spade, to all appearances, is perfectly at ease. When Cairo pats Spade down to make sure he is not armed, Spade gets the better of the man, striking him in the face with his elbow and rendering him unconscious.