The Spy Who Came in From the Cold | Study Guide

John le Carré

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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold | Chapter 15 : Come to the Ball | Summary



Liz receives a letter from Party Centre, inviting her to take part in an all-expenses-paid exchange program between East German and British communists. Liz would travel to East Germany, where she would take part in discussions and studies about industry and social welfare. Liz is baffled by this letter. She has no idea how Party Centre got her name. At a district meeting, she met a man named Ashe, who took her out for coffee and asked her questions. He wondered if Liz had many boyfriends or just one special friend. Liz thinks Ashe acted a little odd, but assumes he recommended her to Party Centre for the exchange program. She knows the party tends to be secretive, which might explain why she had no previous idea about being considered. The letter mentions that Liz was good at generating action at the street level, which is not true. Liz hates passing out pamphlets and avoids this work as much as possible. Liz considers the positive side, thinking it would be nice to travel and learn more about East Germany. She concludes that the party gave her this opportunity rather out of the goodness of their hearts, which makes her proud. She types a response letter, accepting the offer. She notices Smiley's card and remembers his asking her, "Did the party know about you and Alec?"


Chapter 15 examines the themes of political manipulation and deception through the character of Liz. In previous chapters, le Carré shows Leamas's expecting to face deception in his work and accepting it as part of his life. He knows the Circus manipulates him for reasons he is not fully aware of and accepts this as part of the job. In fact, being immersed in this environment has begun to take its toll on Leamas, which is why he wants to get out. In many ways, Liz is the complete opposite of Leamas. She is innocent and honest, qualities which Leamas and other people in his profession have long lost.

As a result, the letter she receives from Party Centre baffles her. She does not expect to find deceptive behavior in her everyday life, much less the levels of deception found in espionage. In fact, she dislikes any type of secrecy, even the secrecy of the party, and hates canvassing, or soliciting public support for the cause, which can be seen as a form of manipulation. Therefore, she immediately eliminates the possibility that the letter is a deception. However, because of this, she has difficulty coming up with a reason for it. She eventually decides her acquaintance, Ashe, had something to do with it. Finally, Liz comes to a conclusion that is true to her nature, which is loving and kind. She thinks the Communist Party must be filled with good people who want peace. This conclusion solidifies her decision to accept the offer.

In reality, though, the letter is an attempt to manipulate Liz through the use of deception. In other words, the letter exists to manipulate Liz—exactly what Control told Leamas would not happen. This deception is a particularly cruel form of manipulation. These powers are taking an innocent person and using her for their own ends. Liz is completely unaware that she is a pawn being used for the supposed good of the whole, and thus has no say in what is happening to her.

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