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 22 : The President | Summary



Bewildered, Liz enters the courtroom and sees Leamas, which surprises her. Leamas screams, "You bastards! Leave her alone!" A guard hits him. The trial continues. The President of the Tribunal reminds Liz that the party has "a need for secrecy" and that Liz should not ask questions about how or why the party is run. She stresses that Liz should tell the truth. If she does this, then she can go home. Liz asks if Leamas is on trial, but the President refuses to tell her, saying it's better if Liz doesn't know anything. Karden questions Liz, asking her if Leamas knows she's a Communist. She replies that he does. Karden continues to interrogate her, but Liz is not sure how to respond because she doesn't know what's at stake. She wants to protect Leamas if possible. Liz says Leamas disliked communism, and he didn't have much money. A friend of Leamas paid his bills after he went to prison, but Leamas never mentioned having friends. Also, a charity paid for her apartment.

Liz then breaks down crying, feeling she is inadvertently giving information that will get Leamas in trouble. She admits that the grocer who was beaten by Leamas got quite a bit of money after Leamas was arrested. Also, Karden gets Liz to confess that two men visited her after Leamas's incarceration and that one of them was Smiley. Karden claims that Leamas made a mistake the Circus never expected, namely getting romantically involved with Liz. He wonders if Liz visited Leamas after he was released from prison. When she says no, Karden accuses her of taking other lovers and thus forgetting Leamas. Liz vehemently denies this, saying Leamas didn't want her to visit him. He had something to do and would see Liz after it was over. Karden declares that Leamas must have known he was going to prison before beating the grocer. Karden calls Liz a fool, but says that Leamas's relationship with her has proved to be fortunate. Because of it, Leamas's plan to frame Mundt as a defector has been exposed.

Leamas's mind whirls with questions. Why did the Circus try to pay off his bills and Liz's lease after Leamas left prison? Was the Circus trying to sabotage their own plan? And how did the Abteilung hear the rumor that Leamas stole money from the Circus?


Chapter 22 reveals the third stage in the revelation of the Circus's manipulations. During this stage, Leamas completely loses his bearings as to what is true and what is deceptive. Through Karden's interrogation of Liz, the Tribunal finds out vital information that exposes Leamas's plan to get rid of Mundt. More importantly, the Circus exposed this plan by paying off his bills after Leamas left prison. None of this makes sense to Leamas. Throughout his career as a spy, his life has been filled with deceptions, but he always felt he knew basically what he needed to accomplish and why. In Chapter 22, these deceptions become so confusing and contradictory that he becomes lost. Is the deception about Mundt's being a defector actually true? Is the Circus deceiving Leamas in some way? Leamas no longer can identify what is real and what is not.

During Liz's interrogation, the Tribunal uses her limited knowledge about the trial to control her: love now comes face-to-face with ruthless inhumanity. Liz has no idea who's on trial and what to say to protect Leamas. She fears that "a word, a gesture ... could do terrible harm to Alec." She is not even allowed to see Leamas so she can read his expression because she is forced to stand with her back to him. Like Leamas in the Circus, Liz has become a pawn whose limited knowledge of what is happening enables the powers that be to manipulate her as they please. As part of this manipulation, Karden uses Liz's love for Leamas against her. He baits her by saying she took other lovers after Leamas went to prison, which makes her appear to not care about Leamas. Karden knows that Liz's love for Leamas will compel her to deny this and to provide proof that the accusation is a lie. So she says the two men that visited her were not lovers, but rather friends of Leamas. In the harsh world of the Cold War, romantic love is viewed as a weakness and also as an opportunity to obtain an advantage against the enemy. All that matters is winning. How this is accomplished doesn't matter, because the end justifies the means. Love is nothing more than another casualty.

Again, secrecy enables the Tribunal and the Circus to commit this political manipulation. At the beginning of her interrogation, the President of the Tribunal reminds Liz about the importance of secrecy in the Communist Party. A party member should never ask questions about the party's purposes. In other words, a party member should allow the party to use whatever methods it chooses to get what it wants. Such a lack of accountability is a breeding ground for the kind of deception and inhumane manipulation Liz and Leamas are forced to endure.

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