Casino Royale | Study Guide

Ian Fleming

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Casino Royale | Chapter 21 : Vesper | Summary

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Summary

James Bond hasn't allowed Vesper Lynd to visit him in the hospital for over a week. He doesn't want her sympathy, as it makes him feel claustrophobic. Neither does he want answers about her behavior on the night of the kidnapping for fear she will appear even more foolish than he already thinks she is. Above all Bond is afraid his injuries have made him irreversibly impotent. Despite his doctor's assurances, he feels the mental scars of his torture can "only be healed by experience."

Bond finally allows Vesper to visit him on the eighth day. Looking suntanned and happy, Vesper explains she has been spending her time at the beach per instructions from the doctor and the Head of S. She invites Bond to join her when he's out of the hospital, and only when she begins to cry does he soften toward her. She tells him about the swarm of reporters that descended on Royale-les-Eaux following the news of the "Jamaican" who had beat Le Chiffre at baccarat. Bond asks her what happened after she left the nightclub, and she seems embarrassed by how easily Le Chiffre and his men tricked her. She swears the two gunmen never touched her in the villa—they left her tied in a chair, facing the wall. She didn't see the SMERSH operative, but she heard him kill Basil and the Corsican.

Vesper apologizes for the injuries inflicted on Bond. Even though he assures her it wasn't her fault, she promises to make it up to him. He says he'll "hold [her] to that." She promises to come back tomorrow.

Analysis

Bond's physical injuries are terrible, but they are nothing compared to the damage done to his psyche. In his mind masculinity and sexual prowess are connected. As someone who defines himself by his masculinity, the mere thought of never feeling arousal or failing to perform sexually is panic-inducing. Impotence, or the inability to achieve an erection, would be devastating to his self-esteem and his sense of self. Le Chiffre didn't just beat Bond raw—he caused an existential crisis that could send Bond into a tailspin of depression and self-loathing.

At least part of Bond's sense of masculinity is restored upon visiting with Vesper. Her emotional reaction to his suffering and his gruff demeanor make him feel powerful and superior. He is nothing like the bleary-eyed woman before him, so he must still be a man. Yet even the narrator recognizes Bond isn't as unfeeling as he seems, noting, "Like all harsh, cold men, he [is] easily tipped over into sentiment." He sees a beautiful woman crying and can't help but be concerned. The desire to care for an emotionally fragile woman also makes him feel more masculine, as his comfort and protection are still needed. Just as in Chapter 20 when Bond says Le Chiffre's villainy made him see the good in the world, Vesper's femininity helps Bond recognize his own masculinity.

Bond has forgiven Vesper for her trespasses for two reasons: she's beautiful and he wants to sleep with her. For someone who is so adept at reading personalities at a glance, he has a terrible blind spot when it comes to attractive women. During their conversation, he misinterprets her lack of eye contact as embarrassment for getting kidnapped. She's not embarrassed—she's lying, and she can't bring herself to look him in the eye. Neither readers nor Bond know this until the end of the novel when Vesper finally confesses her role as double agent, but Bond—the celebrated spy who pays attention to every detail—never suspects Vesper of duplicity. He underestimates her because of her gender, which ends up being more painful than his miscalculations about Le Chiffre and his men.

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