The Secret Agent was written by Joseph Conrad and published in 1908. It’s a classic novel based on actual events: the attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory in 1984. This fictionalized tale revolves around Mr. Verloc, a spy for his home country of France while living and working in London, Mr. Verloc’s wife, Winnie, a devoted wife and lives her life caring for her young brother, and Stevie, Winnie’s simple-minded brother who manages to get involved with Mr. Verloc’s dangerous politics. The family relationships in this novel, particularly Winnie's devotion to her brother Stevie, are quite strong and relevant to the events of the story. The novel seems to be mostly about Winnie, though she appears to only be a minor character throughout the majority of the story. Winnie is the injured party when the scheme to blow up the Greenwich Observatory goes disastrously wrong, though the plan was engineered to save Mr. Verloc from the possibility of death. In a way, Mr. Verloc and Winnie are almost paralleled to one another in the story, both living behind secrets.
While reading the novel, Winnie and Mr. Verloc’s relationship seemed odd and unfamiliar. Chapter VIII in The Secret Agent reveals a passage that makes the reader consider Winnie and Mr. Verloc to be strangers to one another: [t]his head arranged for the night, those ample shoulders, had an aspect of familiar sacredness—the sacredness of domestic peace. She moved not, massive and shapeless like a recumbent statue in the rough; he remembered her wide-open eyes looking into the empty room. She was mysterious, with the mysteriousness of living beings. (Conrad 148) The imagery in the passage seems cold, and lacking the passion that a man would use to describe his wife laying in bed next to him. By calling Winnie sacred, Conrad does add a little warmth, because unlike Winnie, Mr. Verloc does love her, but she is also described as mysterious. Winnie and Mr. Verloc have been married for seven years and the...
Cited: Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. New York: Signet Classics, 2007.
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