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 26 : In from the Cold | Summary



Leamas leads Liz to the area where they are to cross over the Berlin Wall. They wait for a moment when the beams from searchlights turn away, leaving the area in darkness. Holding Liz tightly, Leamas brings her to the base of the wall. Using metal wedges driven into its surface, he climbs to the top, where finds that the barbed wire has been cut. He grabs Liz's arms and tries to pull her to the top. Suddenly, the searchlights go on, illuminating Leamas and Liz. Blinded by the lights, Leamas still tries to pull up Liz, but she is shot and falls to the ground. Although a person calls to Leamas to jump over the wall into West Berlin, and he hears Smiley ask, "Where's the girl?" Leamas climbs back down to the East Berlin side of the wall. He looks at Liz's body and realizes she's dead. Leamas is then shot two or three times. As he falls, Leamas imagines a car containing children being crushed between huge trucks as they "wave cheerfully" through the window.


In Chapter 26, le Carré brings the complex symbol of the Berlin Wall to center stage. The author conveys the symbol's meaning through the description of the wall and Leamas's and Liz's efforts to climb over it. The phrase "the wall, and the black ruins rising behind it" embodies how deeply the Cold War represented by the Berlin Wall has had a destructive effect on the city of Berlin itself and the millions living there. No one is near the wall and no sounds are heard, emphasizing the loneliness and emptiness of the Cold War espionage. The wall has coarse cinder bricks, a "triple-strand of wire," and "cruel hooks," representing the Cold War's harshness and inhumanity.

As Leamas attempts to get himself and Liz over the wall, he is blinded by bright lights. For example, when he is on top of the wall, Leamas is blinded by searchlights, thereby hindering his attempt to pull Liz toward him. When Leamas descends to Liz's corpse, he looks around in the glare of the searchlight like "a blinded bull in the arena." These references emphasize how the harsh, clinical elements of the Cold War blind people who are immersed in this conflict, thereby inhibiting their ability to help others. The searchlights, which are like spotlights that illuminate the stage in a theater, are also a reminder of the manipulation of events by the Circus and the East Germans, but with a terrible twist: Liz and Leamas are part of a staged production on behalf of the Cold War that ends in their real deaths.

The symbol of the Berlin Wall and Leamas's attempt to get over it tie into the theme of love versus inhumanity. By getting over the wall, Leamas is trying to salvage his personal life through his love for Liz. However, various elements of the Cold War such as deceit and harsh, impersonal values prevent him from doing this. It is important to note that Leamas fails to get over the wall because of yet another deception, namely Mundt's betrayal. Leamas and Liz supposedly have 90 seconds to get over the wall. However, this amount of time has barely elapsed when the searchlights shine on Leamas and Liz, and Liz is shot immediately. Also, Leamas hears Smiley say, "The girl, where's the girl?" So Smiley expects Liz to be brought to safety. When Leamas descends to Liz's corpse, the guards seem to hesitate before firing, as if they are confused. It is likely that they did not expect Leamas to go back to Liz. Apparently, as Leamas feared, Mundt has decided not let Liz go free because she is a Jew, further reflecting his bigotry. So he arranges for her to be shot at the last minute, expecting Leamas to jump to safety into West Berlin and the hands of the Circus.

But the Circus, by supporting a fascist racist, has now caused the deaths of Leamas and an innocent victim, Liz. Le Carré ends the novel as Leamas recalls the near-accident that he originally described in Chapter 12, in which he narrowly avoided a car crash that would likely have killed four children in a nearby car. As he dies, Leamas imagines a car containing innocent children, being crushed by two huge lorries, or trucks. Leamas and Liz in a final sense resemble these children: In the Cold War, the brutal, inhumane conflict between two superpowers crushes the innocent in their rush to destroy each other.

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