Casino Royale | Study Guide

Ian Fleming

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Casino Royale | Chapter 17 : "My Dear Boy" | Summary

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Summary

Le Chiffre takes James Bond to a large, sparsely furnished room. He tells Bond to strip and warns "Whether you live or die depends on ... the talk we are about to have." Bond momentarily resists Le Chiffre's orders, and the thin man, who is named Basil, uses a knife to cut through the back of his dinner jacket in one smooth motion. Bond takes off the rest of his clothes himself and Le Chiffre directs him to a small armchair, its cane seat recently removed. Bond sits, his buttocks, testicles, and penis exposed, and Basil lashes his body to the seat's back, legs, and arms. He exits, leaving Bond and Le Chiffre alone.

What follows is a gruesome torture scene involving a cane carpet beater and Bond's genitals. After Le Chiffre strikes Bond the first time, he speaks to Bond in a fatherly voice, explaining, "the game of Red Indians is over, quite over." Bond has stumbled into "a game for grown-ups" and it's time to turn over the money. Le Chiffre threatens to beat Bond to the point of madness, torture Vesper Lynd in front of him, then kill them both. Praying for the inevitable blackout from pain, Bond refuses to give in. Le Chiffre strikes him over and over without mercy, pausing only to demand the whereabouts of the 40-million-franc check and voice his opinions on the nature of torture.

Bond summons the strength to ask for a drink. Le Chiffre roughly obliges. Bond tries to tell Le Chiffre the police will be able to trace the money to him, but Le Chiffre already has a story in place to explain his sudden windfall. The beating continues and Bond finally faints. Le Chiffre revives him only to tell him they "will now finish with [him]." They're not going to kill him—they're going to finish him, and Vesper as well. "Say good-bye to it, Bond," he declares as he reaches for the nearby carving knife.

Analysis

The torture which Le Chiffre has devised for Bond is an attack on his manhood in every sense of the word. The excruciating strokes of the cane mangle Bond's reproductive organs to the point where he thinks he'll never be able to use them again. The psychological torture of that is far worse for Bond than the "immediate agony" of each lash. Le Chiffre has done his homework—he knows Bond prides himself on his masculinity, which is inextricably entwined with his enjoyment of sex. To lose one would result in the loss of the other. If Le Chiffre has his way, Bond "will no longer be a man." That's the very worst thing that could happen to Bond, who defines himself by his masculinity. That is the "it" to which Le Chiffre tells him to say goodbye.

Le Chiffre also uses verbal attacks to wear away Bond's masculinity. His remarks about playing childhood games of "Red Indians" are designed to make Bond feel like a small boy caught messing around in grown-ups' business. The Red Indians may refer to playing "cowboys and Indians," or perhaps to the Indians in the 1911 novel Peter Pan by Scottish author J.M. Barrie. The image of "Red Indians" appealed to Fleming, who referred to his World War II intelligence unit by that name. Referring to Bond in childlike terms is patronizing and insulting to the egotistical spy, who generally thinks he is the smartest and most skilled person in the room. Le Chiffre's method is effective: Bond returns to his phrase about playing Red Indians throughout the rest of the novel. He fears none of his missions have had a measurable effect on the spread of communism, and it makes him question both his agency's tactics of subversive warfare and his own career choices.

Bond knows he won't be rescued by his associates, and he knows he's not going to get out of this situation alive even if he tells Le Chiffre where he hid the check. Instead of giving in, he decides "if he [has] to die anyway, he might as well try it the hard way." Bond's loyalty to his country and his mission is more important to him than survival. So is his insistence on acting "masculine" in all situations. Giving up at this point would be akin to admitting he isn't man enough to protect Mother England and fulfill his duty. That, to him, is a fate worse than death.

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