Casino Royale | Study Guide

Ian Fleming

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Casino Royale | Chapter 8 : Pink Lights and Champagne | Summary

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Summary

James Bond returns to his hotel room, takes a hot bath followed by a cold shower, and thinks about the events to come. He plots out the roles he intends Mathis, Felix Leiter, and "the girl" to take, then envisions every possible outcome to the evening "as if he was watching the tumbling chips of coloured glass in a kaleidoscope." He dresses in a fine tuxedo, gets his lighter and his gun, and goes to the lobby. Miss Lynd is waiting for him. She is wearing a black velvet dress and a thin string of diamonds around her neck. Bond finds her highly attractive and makes a joke to cover his emotion.

Bond declares they will have vodka before dinner, and his decisiveness earns him an amused look from his companion. "Or a cocktail, if you prefer," he amends. They are seated in a cozy mirrored nook at the back of the restaurant. When the sommelier takes their order, Miss Lynd orders vodka. Bond offers to toast her new dress but says he can't do so without knowing her first name. It's Vesper. He asks if he can name his signature martini after her, and she agrees with the stipulation she gets to try it first. He promises they will have one together when their job is finished.

At Bond's insistence they order an extravagant dinner accompanied by "probably the finest champagne in the world." Aware of how pretentious he sounds, he explains the "ridiculous pleasure" he takes in food and drink, which comes from being a bachelor and obsessing over small details. They toast the evening ahead, and Vesper tells Bond she has news from Mathis about the bomb.

Analysis

Contrary to popular belief, James Bond is not a fictionalized version of Ian Fleming, though the two men have quite a lot in common. One way they are similar is their love of the finer things in life. Born into a wealthy family, Fleming was accustomed to an extravagant lifestyle he couldn't maintain while working as a reporter. Bond, too, is an elitist when it comes to food, drink, and material goods. Wanting only the best, he insists on particular brands—such as Taittinger champagne—that emphasize his class and sophistication. Some readers find Fleming's name- and brand-dropping distasteful while others insist it makes Bond's unbelievable exploits more realistic, a touch that was often lacking in spy literature of the period.

Bond's extravagant taste says a lot about his personality. Like Vesper, he enjoys "doing everything fully, getting the most out of everything one does" most likely because any drink or meal could be his last. He is acutely aware of his potentially abbreviated lifespan, and he doesn't want to waste any time on things that aren't the best. His high standards also speak to his need for control in nearly every aspect of his life. There are some things—a foe's choice of weapon, a spin on the roulette wheel—he can't influence, so he maintains a firm grasp on things within his control. That gives him a sense of safety in an extraordinarily dangerous job.

Vesper admires Bond's determination to take pleasure in everything he does, but she finds his controlling nature less agreeable. The "amused glance" she gives him when he tells her what they'll drink while looking over the menu is meant as a gentle reproach; ordering vodka for herself is a good-natured jab at his presumption of authority over her. Bond isn't used to women considering themselves his equals, and he rises to her challenge. He finds this whole exchange annoying not because she questioned him, but because he genuinely cares what she thinks of him. He is falling for her, and he doesn't like it.

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