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 25 : The Wall | Summary

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Summary

As they drive to Berlin, Leamas explains more about the Circus's operation to Liz. The Circus needed to get rid of Fiedler because he threatened to expose Mundt as a double agent. But the Circus had to do this without casting any suspicion on Mundt. The Circus used Liz to discredit Leamas and thus cast suspicion on Fiedler. They didn't know that Leamas would become Liz's lover, but when this development worked to their advantage, they did not hesitate to exploit it. Liz feels used and dirty. She and Leamas argue about the ethics of espionage work and the Cold War. Liz claims the Circus and her Party are wicked for using people and supporting people like Mundt. Leamas counters that winning is all that matters in this game, but admits that he has become sick of the whole mess.

Leamas drives the car into Berlin, where he meets a man waiting in the street. The man gets in the car and gives Leamas instructions on how to get over the Berlin Wall. Leamas and Liz will only have 90 seconds to climb over the wall. If they are spotted by the East German guards, they will be shot on sight. The man directs Leamas to take a serpentine route toward the Berlin Wall. He says the wire at the top of the wall has been cut at a specific spot so they can climb over. Leamas stops the car, and he, Liz, and the man get out. Leamas and Liz walk toward the crossing area as the man drives away.

Analysis

A dialectic is a discussion or argument, in which two opposing views are presented with the aim of finding the truth. In Chapter 25, as the book nears its end, le Carré examines the themes of political manipulation and love together to oppose inhumanity, through the use of a dialectic between Leamas and Liz. Leamas presents the view of the Circus and the Abteilung, namely that individuals need to be sacrificed for the good of the whole, and the end justifies the means. Both organizations use these rationales to justify the political manipulation and occasional abuse of individuals. Although Leamas hates these rationales, he still clings to the idea that they do some good, especially in regard to protecting democracy. The underhanded, immoral work the Circus does keeps ordinary people in the United Kingdom safe from being taken over by the communists or other repressive ideologies. The Circus, therefore, helps to preserve a valued way of life.

On the other hand, Liz argues that these rationales "make you [Leamas and the Circus] the same ... the same as Mundt and all the rest." While Leamas finds a way to justify the inhumanity of the espionage that underlies the Cold War, Liz argues that it is not justifiable because it is inhumane. She points out the lack of humanity in the Circus's and the Abteilung's methods and questions whether the end truly justifies the means. She argues that the Circus supports the very thing it supposedly fights against, namely fascism in the form of Mundt. Liz says, "Mundt is a Nazi, do you know that? He hates Jews." A little more than a decade earlier the British Secret Service fought against the Nazis during World War II. Now it is supporting a Nazi so it can win the Cold War. Also, the rationales mentioned earlier end up being used to harm good people, like Fiedler and Liz herself. In fact, the Circus and the Abteilung see the goodness of people as a weakness that can be exploited. Liz says they have a "contempt for what is real and good; contempt for love." Leamas responds that "it was a foul, foul operation. But it's paid off, and that's the only rule."

Liz and Leamas's dialectic at the philosophical center of the novel reveals that the Cold War is far from a simple battle between good and evil, and the way the war is fought raises far-reaching, complex questions about the role of human beings in such a war. What happens to Leamas and Liz in the next chapter emphasizes the severe consequences of communists and their enemies in the free world seeking to defeat each other at all costs and becoming corrupt in the process.

In the last part of Chapter 25, le Carré uses his description of Leamas's drive to the Berlin Wall to represent the character's life as a spy during the Cold War. Leamas and Liz are carrying out a deception against the East German government by attempting to sneak across the Berlin Wall. This final act, too, requires secrecy: Leamas has to drive through dark streets, taking a confusing, serpentine route to reach the wall. This route resembles Leamas's journey in the Circus, which has been filled with deceptions, twists, and turns. Also, Leamas has no idea where to go and thus has to rely on the directions of his guide. As a spy, Leamas often has had to trust the directions of others without knowing exactly where he's going.

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