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"The Secret Agent" By Joseph Conrad

729 words - 3 pages

Fear Dictates PoliticsJoseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent is a story of politics. Set in London in the early 1900s, Conrad has included a character from every point on the social and political spectrums, from extreme anarchists on the left to equally as extreme fascists on the right and everything in between. Looking more closely at two characters in particular, each on different sides of the political spectrum, it is apparent that no matter your political views, many of your opinions and actions are driven by fear. These fears - fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of freedom - are what classify an individual into a particular political party.It is assumed that the Assistant Commissioner of police has more of a rightist view. He wants everything to stay the way it is (or was). The Assistant Commissioner is against foreign homogenization. He is afraid of people losing their cultural identity and becoming one collective group of "unstamped" ...view middle of the document...

Winnie Verloc, the wife of the Secret Agent himself, shares views that are more on the left side of the political spectrum. She is more concerned with domestic stability as opposed to the Assistant Commissioner's mission to save the world, London in particular, from losing its cultural identity. Winnie grew up poor in a home with a crippled mother, a "crazy idiot of a [brother]" (202), and no father. It was her responsibility to care for her family, with her brother being almost solely hers. She was the one that had to "[sit] up nights and nights with him on [her] lap … when [she] wasn't more than eight years old" (201). She did fall in love with a young butcher, but "his father threatened to kick him out of the business if he were such a fool to marry a girl" (202) with as much responsibility as Winnie had. But she found another man, Adolf Verloc, who wanted her. He made decent money and asked no questions about her family. Regardless of whether she loved him or not, she married him for the financial stability that would help her to live a decent life. When her poor brother died and she learned that her husband was connected in some way, she took matters into her own extreme hands. She murdered her husband and then fled immediately to the bridge, repeating to herself the whole way, "To the bridge - and over I go" (196). Unlike the Assistant Commissioner, who was not an extremist and was afraid of change, Winnie was willing to change everything at the drop of a hat. She was afraid of the public humiliation and "terrified" of the gallows she would have to face once the public learned of her husband's murder. Winnie was not concerned with the country's well being, as the Assistant Commissioner was. She was concerned with the protection of her brother and mother and the possibility of life not changing and getting stuck in an undesirable place.Whereas Winne Verloc was afraid of being poor and not being able to provide for her family, the Assistant Commissioner was afraid of the world losing its identity and becoming less powerful. He feared change and Winnie feared the unchanging. They were on different sides of the political spectrum but both of theirConrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. New York City: Courier Dover Publications, 2001.

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