An in depth analysis of Walter Sobchak, his attitudes and personality
Pat Bratton

At first glance Walter seems a person that time has passed by.  Someone who has lived so long that the world is no longer as it was when he learned to survive in it many years ago.  Unfortunately for Walter, the world was never as he wanted it to be and he has never fit into it.  He deals with the world around him as he wants it to be.  He is very pleasant, as long as he perceives that others treat him with courtesy, and respect the things about which he cares.  When you fail to recognize the protocol of his interaction he is immediately aroused to a fit of rage because “There are rules” and you have violated them.  It is not that he wants his way because it is his way, but because it is right, fair, and respectful.  

You are more likely to injured by Walter if you fail to remove your hat when the flag is passing by than if you accidentally drop something on his foot.  Accidents are a part of life but blatant premeditated disrespect for the flag is a hanging offence.  Walter believes that you know everything that he knows.  If you don’t then he will take the time to explain it to you.  If you don’t believe, or discount what he says, then you are an idiot or at least “out of your league.”  

Walter has studied everything worth knowing, “I once dabbled in pacifism myself.”  He is cultured, sophisticated, witty, and if you embarrass him in any situation and demonstrate that he is not really any of these things, then and you have “Crossed the line.”  Walter's greatest short coming is that he is naïve.  Just as Richard Nixon didn’t know how to break the law and bungled it, Walter knows only of the things he speaks from books and movies.  A sophisticated plan for dealing with kidnappers is to “Grab one of them and beat it out of ‘um.”  

Walter is a man whose personal life is in such chaos that he resorts to rules in order to provide concrete support in order that he can function upright and not drown in the disorder of his life.  Pulling a 45 Auto on poor Smokey because, “It’s a League game, Smoke; You were over the line; Mark it zero” is an example of this.  

Walter was most impressed when the Dude told him that the assailants were “Nihilists.” Walter responds,“Nihilists! Fuck me!” Walter tells us two things here. He accepted the fact that the kidnappers were nihilists and that they believed in nothing. This makes them the polar opposite of Walter whose whole life is ballasted in rules.  He also accepted that these were very dangerous people because of the values that they held. This is so telling because at the end of the movie when they tell him that it wasn’t fair that they weren’t going to get the ransom, he shouted, “Fair! Who’s the nihilist here?” I think that he was most angry because they had violated there own standards of behavior by wanting fairness.

This is my favorite part of the movie. These losers decide that they will accept what ever cash Donny, the Dude and Walter have on them in lieu of ransom.  Everyone seems OK with this except Walter, “No! What’s mine is mine!” Like Thoran Okanshield in the Hobit, standing alone against two armies refusing to give up the dragons horde of treasures.  Donny’s telling question, “Are they going to hurt us?” and Walter’s very caring and quiet answer, “No Donny, these men are cowards” demonstrates that Walter has no idea how serious the situation really is.  
Walter facing down the Nihilists
The most phenomenal thing is that when the three of them attack, Walter, who has a pistol in his bowling bag, instead of ending it right there and making them leave, instead throws the bag at one of them, breaking three of his ribs. Then he rips another’s ear off with his teeth and punches him in the face. This is all movie behavior.  Not real, but Walter makes it real.  It is very hard to go through life this way, never growing, never building on ideas and incorporating the inevitable changes in beliefs and values that knowledge and experience requires.  I cry for Walter because he seems so very real to me. This is a man who like a moth around a flame just keeps going in circles.