Conrad's The Secret Agent - A Literary Essay Sample

Published: 2019-05-16
Conrad's The Secret Agent - A Literary Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Literature
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1440 words
12 min read

We are introduced to the main character Verloc as a man who is living with his family in London. He has a wife by the name Winnie and also lives with his mother and brother in-laws (Conrad, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale 42). This is a clear indication that indeed Verloc was a husband, and he had a family to take care of. It is important that Verloc was successful, and it was due to this reason that he got married to Winnie. His wife was loyal and submissive to him though we are also told that he cared for her brother who had a mental disability. However, when she learns that her husband is somehow involved in the death of her brother, she becomes hateful and revengeful. Consequently, she kills him with a knife. As a matter of fact, Winnie was younger than her husband and at some point she could imagine the life they could have led had she married her real love. This could probably mean that she never really loved Verloc, but something pushed her into this marriage, the success of Verloc.

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Verloc is viewed as a reactionary by Mr. Vladimir, who is also a reactionary himself. Mr. Vladimir wants to see a bloody nation with no progress, and that would never have a political change. He wants nothing to happen totally while Verloc, the main character wants nothing to happen without him being present. Although, they share some similarities in character to some point, Mr. Vladimir sees Verloc as a vessel of accomplishing his mission (Conrad, Harkness and Reid, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale 62). He demands that Verloc should contrive a bomb atrocity that would make the people of the town believe in the reality of revolution. He even goes ahead to blackmail him that, unless he does this, he stands to lose his job.

From what he does after being commanded by Mr. Vladimir to bomb Greenwich Observatory is a clear indication to us as readers that Verloc lacked the ideological commitments. He never had the principality of making his decisions. We can say that Verloc lacked the element of human in him and also was a retrogressive person in the society. Greenwich Observatory was viewed by the townsmen as a center of development and was associated with progress in general. Though he is ordered to do this, this is a clear battering of progress in any given society (Conrad, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale 56).

Verloc is also viewed as inconsiderate and someone who never cared for the human life. It is difficult to imagine that he could use his brother-in-law whom he knows very is mentally retarded, to help him carry out his malicious and evil deed of bombing the region. He took advantage of the condition of Steve and, therefore, he is opportunistic. However, it is still hard to believe that, he never even considered losing a family member and more so, the impact that the demise of Steve could bring to his wife, Winnie.

The inspector of police, inspector heat views Verloc as a disappointment and a disgrace both to his country, Britain and to the department of police. Verloc was employed as a spy, and he should have protected his country by giving the necessary information about the intention of the foreign embassy. He decides to serve two masters at one time something that distresses the inspector when he realizes that Verloc is involved in the bombing of the city. The assistant commissioner is even more disappointed with him after realizing that he was working with a foreign embassy and that what happened he was totally involved.

We can comfortably say that Verloc was married to Winnie, but it is very clear that there existed no real love between the two. Moreover, therefore, we see someone who is married but not committed to the marriage at all. Incidences that happen in the bedroom are clear indications that Verloc never cared about the wife. Lack of communication between him and the wife is something to worry about (Walkowitz 83).

Verloc and companies are satirically used to show the attempts that are made by political powers to try to control the free business enterprises in the society and how they never always succeed. We can see Verloc as a shaky individual who cannot have a proper hold on his own business. This is a clear manifestation of how political powers want to control every aspect of business in the society even without proper management. This business is clearly a political business that has attracted interest from the investors simply because of the political turmoil that is presently in the country.

We can say that Verloc never loved his country at all, and therefore we can say that he was selfish in all his deeds. For someone to agree to and work with foreigners to destabilize his nation is just very absurd. He agrees to be used by those who had the selfish interest and gain in the political situation in the country. Verloc puts his interest first and even never considered the life of his brother-in-law, something that makes us believe that he was very insensitive.

Verloc is also viewed as secretive. He had shady businesses with anarchists and even for once, he never shared this with his wife. This shows how much he could keep secrets, and, therefore, his accomplices such as Mr. Vladimir could easily trust him.

All this action that are portrayed Verloc simply tells that he was someone not to be trusted at all. He betrayed his country, betrayed his wife and therefore it was very easy for him to work with foreigners to cause political turmoil in the country. He is someone with self-esteem and as such is not good to be at the helm of any job in the society. Verloc is an opportunistic person who could not make appropriate decisions and take a proper stand that could not only him but also his country too. His involvement in the death of Steve is a clear indication of how much he never valued others but only himself. We also can say that Verloc is someone who is dangerous to the society and therefore calling him even a husband would not be prudent at all. A husband is expected to be loving, caring and even passionate about the family that he has something that totally lacked in Verloc.

Yes, he was a secret agent of the department of police in his country yet he betrays the trust that he was entitled by working with the foreigners and succeeding in destabilizing the country. Maybe he could be a better person, but the Verloc we see in this novel is someone who should not be trusted with the security of the country. The writer has managed to capture our attention as readers on themes such as betrayal, political systems and even brought out the family issues very well. Though, Winnie can be said to be unrevolutionary by some of her actions such as, placing addresses on her brother's clothes, she was indeed a loving woman who cared about the brother. They even make the personal sacrifice of not marrying the man of her dreams, the butcher's son, and goes to marry Verloc so that the brother and the mother could lead a better life. This is an important attribute that is exhibited by Verlocs wife.

We may finally conclude by saying that maybe everyone that associated with Verloc realized that he was careless and insensitive and that why they involve him in this evil deeds. Moreover, if only Verloc could not have been greedy, he could have led a very peaceful life with the wife and as a secret agent in the town. He ought to have made important decisions in his life. Verloc finally meets his death at the hands of his wife something that could mean that no one will always get away their evil deeds and that we ought to be careful in each and every action we take in life. Winnie, though she also later died, she is viewed as the heroine in the novel as she finally makes Verloc meet his end probably could be the end of such evil acts in the society.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent: a Simple Tale. Toronto: Trajectory Inc, 2014.

Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1993.

Conrad, Joseph, Bruce Harkness and S. W. Reid. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Walkowitz, Rebecca L. Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.

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