Explore the Effectiveness of Chapter One of the Secret Agent

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Explore the effectiveness of chapter one of ‘The Secret Agent’.

‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad is set in 1886 in London, it tells the story of an anarchist, Adolf Verloc, who owns a shop selling pornographic material and other miscellaneous merchandise. However he is in fact a secret agent working with a group of men who believe the same as him. Within chapter one the reader learns about the Verloc family; Adolf Verloc, the main character of the novel; Winnie Verloc, his wife; Stevie, Winnie’s mentally disabled brother who is cared for by Winnie; and Winnie’s mother who lives with the couple. This first chapter is effective in describing the characters who play a pivotal role in the novel.

The shop owned by Adolf Verloc is a front for his true anarchist agenda; it is the first thing described in the opening chapter of the novel. It is described as ‘a square box of a place, with the front glazed in small panes’, this description does not make the shop appear very appealing however it does obtain particular clientele. These include ‘very young men, who hung about the window for a time before slipping in suddenly’ and the ‘men of a more mature age… had the collars of their overcoats turned right up to their moustaches’,’ neither of these class of men seem appealing and the way some of these men are described as ‘looking generally as if they were not in funds’ suggests that there is something quite shady and odd about the shop. The mysterious element of the shop also plays a part in making the Mr Verloc also seem quite mysterious and secretive, even to his family. The shops description is effective in seeing how Mr Verloc appears to make a living and prevents the neighbourhood and his family from seeing how Mr Verloc truly makes money.

Mr Verloc is described in the novel as having ‘prominent, heavy-lidded eyes’ and that a ‘dark smooth moustache covered his thick lips’. From this it is clear that he is not a particular attractive man and that he is not...
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