Sistermagpie's Reviews > The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
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May 07, 11

bookshelves: american-lit, novels
Read in May, 2011

The basis for the movie, obviously, which stayed pretty true to the book. I have a bunch of Cain novels to read. The writing is tight and straightforward. Very hard-boiled noir, which is no surprise since his books basically started that genre. I don't think the book ever explains the meaning of the title. Makes me wonder if that would have driven me crazy if I hadn't already seen the movie (which does explain it) or whether the meaning would have been clear from the story. That might seem unimportant, but it's a particularly good title!
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Wendy I liked the writing a lot too. The thing that started to kind of get to me a little was all the insurance-related plot. Especially since I was planning on reading Double Indemnity next, and that's written with an insurance salesman as protagonist, and I just kept thinking: Okay! James M. Cain must have spent some time as an insurance salesman! (He did. And in looking that up I discovered that Raymond Chandler HATED James M. Cain although Chandler wrote the screenplay for DI (1944) while Faulkner wrote the screenplay for Chandler's Big Sleep (1946)--along with Leigh Brackett.) I read that he wrote those two novels, Postman and Double Indemnity back to back in consecutive years and they're arguably his master contributions but I really never realized how much both are about: INSURANCE!

Can you refresh my memory on exactly what the title means? I think I remember from the movie, but it's only a really vague memory. I saw the movie a long time ago. Just finished the book though, and you're right! No explanation of the title!


Sistermagpie I'm reading Double Indemnity now and thinking the same thing--Insurance! He even mentions how people started bumping people off in the bathroom because of a study saying most people die in the bathroom. That's exactly the thinking the character in Postman uses!

Iirc, the idea is that when the Postman comes with a package he always rings the doorbell twice so even if you miss him the first time, you'll get him. Just like Frank gets away with it the first time but then winds up in jail for a murder he didn't commit. That was the Postman ringing the doorbell a second time and getting him!


Wendy This is interesting. I thought it meant he had a code ring but I now think it means he rings once on the drop-off, once on the way back. Which, if so, is different than I thought! But also fits right in with Frank's fate. Thanks!


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