Casino Royale | Study Guide

Ian Fleming

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Casino Royale | Chapter 1 : The Secret Agent | Summary

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Summary

British secret agent James Bond is at a casino watching his target, Le Chiffre, playing baccarat at a high-rollers' table. Growing tired, Bond imagines the next day's conversation between casino management, then tries to figure out the best way a criminal would rob the caisse, or cashier's desk. As it seems impossible to pull off a robbery without any casualties or any "squealing" from associates, Bond decides Le Chiffre won't attempt a robbery.

Bond returns to his hotel across the street. The concierge hands him his room key and a cryptic telegram, which Bond interprets to mean the British Treasury is sending him 10 million francs (approximately $263,608). The telegram comes from someone at MI6, the nickname for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), via a contact in Jamaica. Bond is familiar with Jamaica from previous jobs, and his cover for this mission is of a very wealthy client of a Jamaican import/export business. He sends a brief telegram in reply, then takes the stairs to his first-floor room. After thoroughly checking his booby traps to make sure no one has entered the room since he left, he tallies his accumulated funds—23 million francs (approximately $606,303)—and goes to bed. He sleeps with his hand on his pistol.

Analysis

The first chapter of the first James Bond book introduces readers to the man who would go on to become the most famous spy in literature. Throughout the novel his appearance remains nondescript—as befitting an individual whose job it is to blend into his surroundings. Though author Ian Fleming set out to make his protagonist a "dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened," thus allowing readers to envision themselves in the novels' exotic locales and dangerous situations—the first chapter of Casino Royale provides insight into a few aspects of Bond's personality:

  • He is a control freak. Instead of simply observing the workings of the casino, he goes a step further and imagines the conversations of the staff. Planning for every possible scenario ahead of time ensures he's not caught off guard.
  • He is paranoid. He booby-traps his hotel room, refuses to take the elevator, and assumes the concierge is reading his mail. This extreme caution is what makes him such a good agent "and still alive thanks to his exact attention to the detail of his profession."
  • He is not a kind or loving man. There is something brutal about the way the narrator describes Bond's last moments of wakefulness. He takes a cold shower, "shove[s]" the pile of money under his pillow, then grips his gun and falls asleep. The narrator goes on to tell readers something about Bond's true nature, describing his sleeping face as "ironical, brutal, and cold." In his line of work, he can't afford to be anything else.
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