Casino Royale | Study Guide

Ian Fleming

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Casino Royale | Chapter 2 : Dossier for M. | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 2 is a dossier, or detailed file, proposing a mission to bankrupt Le Chiffre, a Russian agent serving as the paymaster for a communist-controlled trade union in Alsace, France. In early 1946 Le Chiffre used 50 million francs (approximately $1.3 million) of government money earmarked for union support to buy himself a profitable chain of brothels. Just three months later, France passed a law outlawing prostitution and pornography. Le Chiffre had difficulty making any money at all, let alone enough to replace the union funds before anyone caught on. Unbeknownst to him, SMERSH, the Soviet government's watchdog organization, is on his trail. Tasked with protecting the Soviet Secret Service and Secret Police from internal and external forms of treachery, SMERSH is "the most powerful and feared organization in the U.S.S.R." and has "never ... failed in a mission of vengeance."

British intelligence is certain Le Chiffre intends to recoup his losses via gambling. According to an undercover agent posing as one of his mistresses, Le Chiffre has withdrawn 25 million francs (approximately $659,002) from union funds and reserved a villa in Royale-les-Eaux, France. The casino at Royale "will see the highest gambling in Europe this summer," and Le Chiffre means to capitalize on it.

The dossier suggests it is in the best interest of Britain and her allies to ensure Le Chiffre doesn't succeed in winning back the union money. This would ensure the bankruptcy of the communist trade union and hopefully make any communist-leaning French citizens—a "potential fifth column"—"lose faith and cohesion." It would also be a huge embarrassment to the Soviets. The dossier recommends sending the Secret Intelligence Service's best gambler to Royale-les-Eaux to beat Le Chiffre and strike a blow to communism's influence in the French region of Alsace.

Analysis

Casino Royale established the formulaic structure Fleming used in the majority of his James Bond novels. The first chapter is a "teaser" scene meant to give readers a glimpse of the mission Bond is facing. Then the narrative goes back in time. Readers learn the details of Bond's mission, and Bond is given his orders. The rest of the novel is spent gathering clues, encountering the villain, forming a love interest, escaping death, and triumphing over evil. In the later novels, the structure provides a feeling of familiarity and predictability for readers anxious about Bond's fate. In Casino Royale, the first book in the series, the structure piques readers' curiosity before providing the pertinent details of the mission.

Most of Bond's early missions are focused on stopping the spread of communism beyond the borders of the U.S.S.R. The Cold War was in full swing when Fleming began writing Casino Royale in 1952, and communist involvement in trade unions was a major concern for the British government as early as 1949. Many British officials suspected Red agents of instigating workers' strikes across the empire in an effort to mobilize the "fifth column," or secret sympathizers to the communist cause.

Casino Royale also marks the first appearance of SMERSH, MI6's long-term opponent. Derived from the Russian words Smyert Shpionam, the acronym is roughly translated as "Death to Spies." This doesn't just mean foreign spies—it means anyone who crosses the Soviet government, including its own members who are going astray. In this scenario Bond isn't SMERSH's target—Le Chiffre is.

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