Study Guide

The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent Summary

Meet Mr. Verloc, a man who runs a pornography shop and hangs out with a bunch of anarchists…but who is also a secret agent for a foreign government. Talk about double lives. One day, he is suddenly summoned to meet his new boss at the embassy, a guy named Mr. Vladimir who hatches a plan that'll force the police to start locking up political agitators without due process. Vladimir orders Verloc to make sure that a bomb is planted at the Greenwich Observatory. Verloc doesn't want to do it, but when Mr. Vladimir threatens his cushy life, he becomes very anxious and agrees to the plan.

Next thing you know, you're listening to one of Verloc's friends, Ossipon, chatting with another guy (called the Professor) at a bar. Ossipon says that someone has blown himself up in Greenwich Park, near the observatory. The Professor reveals to Ossipon that he gave a bomb to Verloc a few days earlier, and Ossipon becomes convinced that Verloc is the man who's blown himself up. While investigating the crime, Chief Inspector Heat finds a piece of material with Verloc's address sewn into it. Despite the connection with Verloc, though, Heat chooses to blame another known anarchist named Michaelis for the crime. Heat's boss, however, doesn't want Michaelis tied up with the crime, so after consulting a member of English parliament, he goes over Inspector Heat's head and investigates the crime himself.

Phew. You doing okay? That was a lot of names and a lot of intrigue. Take a breather.

You good? Good? Good! The novel suddenly jumps back in time (though you don't know it right away). Mr. Verloc takes a trip to the continent to supposedly clear his head, although you can guess that he's trying to find some way to deal with the task Mr. Vladimir has set for him. One day, when he's about to go for a walk, Verloc's wife Winnie asks him to bring Stevie (Winnie's brother) along. Verloc is surprised at the request, and after Winnie tells him that Stevie would do anything for him, Verloc starts to take more of a notice in Stevie.

Eventually, we reach the day of the Greenwich explosion again. Late in the day, Verloc comes home in a fit and Winnie thinks he has a cold. Verloc is obviously very agitated. A little while after that, a man shows up in the shop looking for Verloc. You can tell from the narrator's description that the man is Heat's boss, the Assistant Commissioner.

While Verloc and the Assistant Commissioner are gone, Chief Inspector Heat enters the shop. He is angry to learn that the Assistant Commissioner has already been there. He tells Winnie about the bomb that went off in Greenwich, and shows Winnie the piece of overcoat that he collected from the human remains. Winnie starts to panic when she recognizes that the piece of fabric is from the overcoat of her brother, Stevie.

Verloc comes back and sees Heat, and goes into the next room to speak with him. Winnie goes to listen at the keyhole, fearing the worst. Her fears are confirmed when she hears Verloc talking about how he made Stevie carry the bomb to the Greenwich observatory. As Winnie breaks down in grief, Verloc and Heat continue their conversation. Verloc says that he's going to go to court and tell everything he knows about his spy network and the Embassy that told him to plant a bomb. He's going to bring everyone down with him. Heat thinks this is a bad idea, but can't convince Verloc to do otherwise.

Verloc tries to apologize to Winnie and console her about Stevie's death, but her disgust toward him keeps her silent. Eventually, Verloc loses his temper and says they need to stop grieving and think about how they can leave the country. He even starts to argue that Stevie's death was Winnie's fault, since she was always pushing the boy into Verloc's life. Also, he blames her for bringing the cops on them by sewing Stevie's address into his coat. Eventually, Verloc lies down to rest. Winnie completely loses it and stabs him with a kitchen knife, killing him.

Once she's done the job, Winnie becomes extremely afraid of being tried for murder. She runs out of the house and meets Comrade Ossipon, one of Verloc's anarchist buddies. She asks him to take care of her, and he agrees to help her get on a boat that is leaveing England that night. At first he thinks that Verloc blew himself up, but after he realizes that Winnie has murdered the man, he becomes very afraid of her. Once he's on the train with Winnie, Ossipon becomes convinced that she's going to kill him as soon as his usefulness runs out. He leaps from the train with all of her money and leaves her with no hope as she rides away.

In the final chapter, Ossipon sits with the Professor, though he's completely engrossed in a week-old newspaper article about a woman who committed suicide by jumping off a boat. He knows that it's Winnie who has killed herself. That doesn't stop him, though, from spending his stolen money on a bunch of beer. As he and the Professor leave the pub, both are overwhelmed by a sense that their lives mean nothing. But hey, that's just Conrad doing his Conrad-tastic thing.

  • Chapter 1

    • Meet Mr. Verloc, who's leaving his brother-in-law in charge of his London shop as he steps out for a little walk. The brother-in-law doesn't sound all that capable of running the place, but truth is that Verloc doesn't really care all that much about his "ostensible" business. The shop is attached to his house, which is a grimy brick building in London.
    • The windows of the shop contain pictures of naked dancing girls, as well as "packages in wrappers like patent medicines; closed yellow paper envelopes" (1.3). In other words, these are packages that are really discrete, and you might already be realizing that Mr. Verloc runs some sort of pornography shop. Nice first impression on the reader, right? Imagine what people would've thought in 1907.
    • The book describes the characters that frequent Verloc's shop, and doesn't paint a flattering picture of them. They tend to be either anxious young men or older gents with muddy clothes and their collars turned up to hide their faces.
    • A bell at the door usually brings Mr. Verloc from out of the house and into the shop. He isn't the warmest of clerks; but hey, it's the pornography business, and customers aren't likely to care one way or the other.
    • Sometimes, it is actually Mrs. Verloc who answers the bell. She is described as an attractive woman "with a full bust, in a tight bodice, and with broad hips" (1.7). Sometimes she makes younger customers uncomfortable (just by being a woman), and they leave after buying only a ridiculously overpriced bottle of ink.
    • You also learn that there are "evening visitors," who come into the shop and don't buy anything, but instead "lif[t] up the flap at the end of the counter in order to pass into the back parlour" (1.8). The reader isn't quite sure (yet) who these dudes are, or why they've going into the Verloc's home, but Winnie doesn't seem to mind.
    • Winnie's mother is an old woman who can barely move because of her swollen legs. She's had a long life, and at one point ran a boarding house in another part of London. She's been a widow for a while now, and she's happy that Winnie married Mr. Verloc, who seems like a nice man who can take care of them all.
    • Winnie's mother remembers how Mr. Verloc used to come to her boarding house every now and then, always arriving from somewhere outside England. When he used to come, he would eat his breakfast in bed and "remain wallowing there" until noon every day (1.9). He would leave in the early afternoon and come back in the early morning, maybe three or four a.m., sounding like he'd been talking all night.
    • The old woman doesn't really like the new neighborhood, but she is happy that her daughter is secure, along with Stevie. So why, we might already wonder, is she so worried about Stevie? Well it turns out that Winnie's brother has what people today would call a mental disability.
    • Stevie has tried to hold jobs in the past, but he seems unable to keep them because he gets too easily distracted. On one occasion, he actually set off fireworks in the stairwell of an office building and caused a huge commotion.
    • Winnie only found out afterwards that "two other office-boys in the building had worked upon his feelings by tales of injustice and oppression till they had wrought his compassion to the pitch of that frenzy" (1.14). In other words, two smarter young men tricked Stevie into lighting off the fireworks out of protest for the terrible treatment they'd received.
    • At this point, Conrad shows you that Stevie can be easily manipulated. Stevie doesn't seem to cause Mr. Verloc much hassle. For the most part, he stays in his room at the rear of the Verloc house and spends his days drawing circles with a pencil and mathematical compass. While he does this, Winnie "glance[s] at him from time to time with maternal vigilance" (1.15), which suggests that she's very protective of him.
  • Chapter 2

    • Now that the first chapter has described the Verloc household, the book returns to the opening line of the novel and reminds us that Mr. Verloc is leaving his home/shop in Stevie's care at half-past ten in the morning. The narrator mentions that the sun is "a peculiarly London sun—against nothing could be said except it looked bloodshot" (2.1). Get used to this atmosphere, because a bloodshot sun is probably the cheeriest weather Conrad describes in the entire book.
    • Mr. Verloc looks over the things around him with "an approving eye" (2.1). He believes that "all these people [have] to be protected" (2.1). He appreciates the fact that all of them are pretty rich, and firmly believes that the most important thing for wealthy people is that they are protected and safe. More specifically, he believes that these people's property needs to be protected against the "shallow enviousness of unhygienic labour" (2.1). 
    • In a move that was very common in Conrad's time, Verloc draws a clear line between working-class and middle-class people. He loves the middle and upper classes, who are clean and rich, and he hates the working class, who are dirty and envious of the rich folks.
    • The narrator just decides to go ahead and tell us that Mr. Verloc is a pretty lazy dude, which you could probably already tell from the fact that he never gets out of bed before 10 a.m. His parents were very hard-working people, but he has embraced laziness for reasons that the narrator can't really explain to us.
    • Judging by Verloc's weight and nice clothes, people might think he is a lower-level businessman, but the narrator tells us that Verloc gives off a vibe that's "common to men who live on the vices, the follies, or the baser fears of mankind" (2.2). In this instance, the narrator suggests that you can almost tell by looking that Verloc has made his money off the worst parts of people's personalities.
    • We learn that the reason Mr. Verloc has gotten all dressed up is because he has business with an embassy. He turns onto a private street where the numbers on the houses stop making sense. He passes No. 1 Chesham Square even though "Chesham Square [is] at least sixty blocks away" (2.3).
    • He comes to a gate marked with the number 10, which joins two houses: one marked 9 Chesham Square and the other marked 37 Porthill Street. Obviously, the houses are not marked in any logical way, and this detail helps Conrad convey an overall sense of uncertainty and randomness in the maze-like streets of London. Mr. Verloc doesn't worry too much about this lack of order, though.
    • Inside the embassy, Verloc is led to a waiting room, where he is eventually met by Privy Councilor Wurmt (what a last name!)—a bald, shortsighted man who doesn't seem all that happy about having to deal with Verloc.
    • Wurmt lays down some reports that Verloc has written and tells Verloc that he's not happy about the way the London police have been treating the political radicals in London (and not because they've been too mean).
    • Wurmt is convinced that the niceness of London police has made England a joke to the rest of Europe. Both Wurmt and Verloc agree that there is social unrest in England, and Verloc reminds Wurmt that he's been trying to document this unrest in his reports for the past twelve months.
    • Out of nowhere, Wurmt tells Verloc that he (Verloc) is really fat, maybe suggesting that Verloc has been sitting around and eating up a government paycheck while being lazy. Verloc is hurt by the comment and tries to stand up for himself. But Wurmt gets too fed up with him and leaves, saying that Verloc should meet with a guy named Mr. Vladimir. A bit later, a servant in brown leads Verloc out of the room.
    • Mr. Verloc enters a large room with three windows. Sitting in a big armchair behind a writing table is a "young man with a shaven, big face" (2.25). The guy's name is Mr. Vladimir, and he has a reputation for being really popular in London's high society because of his wit and charm. With Verloc, though, he's all business.
    • After they speak for a few moments in French, Vladimir suddenly shifts into English without the slightest trace of an accent. This shows that Vladimir knows the spy game well, and is an expert at shifting his cultural identity without detection.
    • You learn from the following conversation that Verloc's first gig working for the English government was obtaining the plans for a new French gun. He was caught doing this and put into a high-security French jail for five years. He'd like to get a little credit for his sacrifice, but Vladimir just calls him a loser for getting caught.
    • Vladimir slams Verloc for being too fat to pass himself off as an anarchist, since anarchists are supposed to be poor and starving. At this point, a few threads come together, and you realize that Verloc is a government agent who's been hired to spy on anarchists and anarchist groups in London.
    • Vladimir goes on to tell Verloc that his former boss (named Baron Stott-Wartenheim) was a crazy old man, and that Verloc is going to have to start producing concrete results in his work or stop picking up a government check.
    • Verloc starts shouting at Vladimir, showing off the great booming voice that's made him super popular at left-wing rallies. Mr. Verloc says his work is constantly preventing attacks in London, but Vladimir tells him that he's not interested in prevention. What he wants is for the police to start whomping people they don't like the look of, which can't happen unless some radical commits an act of destruction. Vladimir then tells Verloc that there is an international conference coming up in Milan, and that he wants something to happen in London before this conference to set the governments of Europe cracking down on left-wing radicals.
    • Verloc feels that his own lazy lifestyle is being threatened, and can't stand the idea of having to actually do something to earn the money he makes. Morally, he doesn't care one way or the other about an attack in London.
    • Mr. Vladimir adds that he's not all that interested in killing a bunch of people, but this is only because people have gotten too used to the idea of murder in London. Vladimir wants the attack to have a great effect on people's minds, so it has to have symbolic significance. Vladimir then goes on to reason why it won't matter if Verloc attacks royalty or the church, since people might think that the attack was the effort of a crazy individual, and not part of some larger threat.
    • Vladimir says that Verloc has to attack science, since during Conrad's time science was everyone's favorite flavor of the month.
    • Finally, Vladimir gets down to talking turkey, and says he wants a political radical to attack an observatory in the neighborhood of Greenwich. The location of this observatory is at "the first meridian," which today is still the standard for clock-time around the globe. Vladimir is convinced that such an attack on the very idea of scientific reason will produce enough fear in London to lead to some really harsh laws.
    • Verloc argues that the plan will cost money, but Vladimir throws this comment back in his face and says Verloc won't be getting any more government cheese unless he starts producing results quickly. Vladimir gives Verloc a month to bomb the Greenwich observatory, and Verloc walks home in a fog, wondering what he's going to do.
    • The chapter concludes with his wife Winnie glancing through the curtain that leads between the Verloc's home and the shop, where she sees Verloc sitting and thinking on a chair behind the cash counter. This sight is followed by a brief history of how Winnie has always considered herself lucky to have Verloc for a husband, since he tolerates her brother Stevie like a housecat, which is the best she can hope for. We also learn that when Winnie was younger, she went on a few dates with a butcher's son, who she really seemed to like-like.
    • But one day, without warning, Winnie came home depressed and stopped seeing the boy. A short while later, she met and agreed to marry Mr. Verloc, who was much older than her, but was a good provider for Winnie, her mother, and Stevie. Winnie's mother has always counted this turn of events as a stroke of incredibly good luck, something "clearly providential" (2.138).
  • Chapter 3

    • The chapter opens with a brief speech that someone seems to be giving on the nature of social change. The speaker insists that people's ideas have no bearing on the course of human history, and that the future is always determined by material things, like who's got cash and who doesn't. Basically, the speaker is talking straight Marxism, saying things like "History is dominated and determined by the tool and the production" (3.1).
    • There is no point in worrying about changing the way people think, he adds. After all, it's inevitable that capitalism will soon fall and give way to socialism. (Remember that this was before Marxism even took off in countries like Russia or Cuba, so it was still a pretty untested idea at the time.)
    • We find out that the person saying this stuff is named Michaelis, whom you might remember from Mr. Vladimir's little speech to Verloc in chapter two. Michaelis is known as a "ticket-of-leave apostle" because he's been let out of jail before his sentence was finished and because he has a very gentle and stoic way of predicting the future.
    • The narrator is quick to add that Michaelis' voice "wheeze[s] as if deadened and oppressed by the layer of fat on his chest" (3.2). Apparently, Michaelis' fifteen years in jail have left him morbidly obese, possibly from eating so many non-nutritious food in his time on the inside. Since he's been let out of prison, Michaelis has met a rich old sugar mama who takes care of him.
    • Next, we learn that Michaelis is speaking inside Mr. Verloc's home. Across from Michaelis, a gross old man named Karl Yundt laughs in a really evil, Disney-villain way.
    • Yundt is really old and has a tough time moving around, and he holds onto a walking stick with a "skinny groping hand deformed by gouty swellings" (3.6). In other words, he's not exactly prom-date material.
    • The dude waxes poetic on how he wishes he could find a group of radicals who were actually willing to kill to get what they want. But alas, he's never been able to find any political thinkers who'll actually do anything other than sit around and talk about their beliefs (kind of like himself, right?).
    • The narrator goes on to describe the fourth member of the meeting (along with Michaelis, Yundt, and Verloc), who is a young ex-medical student and writer of political pamphlets named Comrade Ossipon.
    • Michaelis goes on talking about his ideas, since being alone with his thoughts for so many years has made him completely deaf to the opinions of other people. (As if people had to go to prison for that to happen. Are we right, folks?)
    • Verloc decides to get up for some fresh air. He opens the door to his kitchen and finds Stevie on the other side, bent over a table and concentrating very deeply on drawing a bunch of circles. Comrade Ossipon also gets up to have a look at Stevie; then he comes back into the room and notes his approval, calling Stevie "perfectly typical" (3.18).
    • Verloc asks what Ossipon means by this, and Ossipon says that Stevie's drawings are very common for his type of "degeneracy" (3.20). It turns out that Ossipon believes really strongly in a bunch of ideas that are considered totally bogus nowadays. He believes in the teachings of a man named Cesare Lombroso, who wrote that you could spot a criminal just by looking at the shape of his skull. 
    • Even Ossipon's friends don't seem to think much of the supposedly "scientific" basis of a criminals physical characteristics. Karl Yundt, for one, tells it like it is and says, "Lombroso is an ass" (3.25). He goes on a huge tirade about how criminals are not born, but made by society, which marks them from a young age with a "branding instrument invented by the overfed to protect themselves against the hungry" (3.27). Ossipon tries to argue, but wilts when he looks at Yundt's gross face.
    • By this point, Stevie has gotten up from the kitchen table, planning to take his drawings to bed. But he stands frozen in the doorway of the parlor, horrified at the terrible images that Karl Yundt uses to talk about the horror of social oppression.
    • Again, the narrator shows us that Stevie is extremely sensitive to violence and injustice, since Stevie "[knows] very well that hot iron applied to ones skin hurt[s] very much. His scared eyes blaz[e] with indignation" (3.31).
    • Eventually, the three anarchists get up and leave. Verloc slides the bolt behind them and curses, realizing that these men are all talk and that they'll never commit the violent act he needs them to.
    • As he goes to bed, Verloc realizes that Stevie is still downstairs. When he goes back down, he finds Stevie walking around and mumbling in the kitchen. At this moment, he realizes that he, Winnie, Stevie, and their mother all rely on his money to survive. He has never had to think about this before because of the money he's made off the old spy game.
    • He goes into his bedroom and wakes up Winnie by calling to her. She doesn't budge at first, but as soon as he mentions Stevie causing a nuisance downstairs, she flies out of bed to go deal with him.
    • When she comes back, Verloc tells her he's not feeling well, and that he hasn't been feeling well for some time. Winnie, though, doesn't really pay attention to him and talks instead about how Stevie gets really upset when he hears men like Karl Yundt talking about how the rich people of the world live by "drinking the blood" of the poor.
    • Stevie doesn't understand that these are metaphors, and his sympathy for human suffering makes him totally freak out when he hears people talk like Yundt.
    • At the end of the chapter, Winnie says that she sometimes agrees with Stevie because she thinks that a lot of people are completely heartless and "don't deserve much mercy" (3.88). This shows that even though Winnie cares a lot about Stevie, she's definitely got some violent thoughts in her.
    • All this time, Verloc just gets more depressed about the fact that Winnie really doesn't care about whether he feels good. She's only concerned with defending Stevie's place in the household. You might even feel bad for the guy at this point; but don't worry. It won't last long.
  • Chapter 4

    • The narrator describes a nicely decorated downstairs lounge called the Silenus Restaurant. Comrade Ossipon sits at a table and starts talking about a "confounded affair" (4.2) to another person. The big, muscular Ossipon seems to be nervous around this other guy, even though the narrator describes the guy as "frail enough for Ossipon to crush between his thumb and forefinger" (4.6).
    • Ossipon asks a couple questions about whether the other guys have been out that day. Then he has a vision of the other man walking down the street, scaring everyone away with the sight of his black-rimmed glasses. You still don't know why this little twerp is so intimidating to Ossipon. It turns out that Ossipon's been asking these questions because he wants to know if this other man has heard the news that's been going around London.
    • When he realizes that the other guy doesn't know what he's talking about, Ossipon leans over the table and asks the other guy, "Do you […] give your stuff to anybody who's up to asking for it?" (4.18). The other man says that his rule is never to refuse anyone who asks for some of his mysterious "wares."
    • Ossipon isn't happy about this, but the other guy isn't all that concerned. He knows that the cops won't come anywhere near him because "they know very well that [he] take[s] care never to part with the last of [his] wares" (4.33).
    • So from this, we can figure out that this little dude keeps something on him "[in] a thick glass flask" that keeps the cops from coming after him. When pressed, this guy explains to Ossipon that if anyone tried to lay a hand on him, he'd blow himself up and take out everything within sixty yards of him. So basically, this guy lives with a bomb on him at all times. Not a strategy for the faint-hearted.
    • To avoid getting taken by surprise, the man has rigged his bomb to a little rubber ball he carries in his pocket. One squeeze of this detonator will blow up his bomb. He shows Ossipon the tube running from his pants pocket to the breast pocket of his jacket.
    • Ossipon asks if the detonation is instant, but the bomb guy says that it actually takes twenty seconds for detonation. The bomb guy admits that this is a design issue with his detonator, and adds that his great dream is to create a perfect detonator: one that could adjust to any situation and always work perfectly.
    • While this exchange takes place, a player piano near the doorway starts up by itself and plays songs seemingly at random, contributing to the notion of a random universe that Conrad develops throughout this novel.
    • The bomb guy goes on to say that at the end of the day, it's not just having a bomb, but having a strong character that makes a person safe. The guy refers to this strength as "force of personality," explaining that its not his bomb that makes him deadly, but the fact that everyone knows he's willing to blow himself up (4.52). In his eyes, this is what makes him so much better than everyone else.
    • At this point, you realize that the little bomb guy is basically a total psychopath. He's completely convinced that he's superior to everyone around him, and is willing to die to prove it. For example, when Ossipon says that other people might also have force of character, the bomb-guy says that he is "not impressed by them. Therefore they are inferior" (4.55). For the bomb guy, the sheer belief that he's better than people is enough to make it real.
    • The bomb guy's reason for why he's so superior to others is, because unlike normal people, his awesomeness "depend[s] on death, which knows no restraint and cannot be attacked" (4.55). If he's willing to die, then there's nothing that society can really threaten him with. In a sense, he's got the Braveheart logic down pat: "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!"
    • Ossipon doesn't know how to deal with this guy, so he asks him what he wants out of life. The bomb guy just says that he wants a "perfect detonator" and nothing else. Then he talks some serious smack about Ossipon for being a typical radical who just sits around whining about society and never doing anything about it.
    • By this point, Ossipon is getting pretty flustered. But the guy's got an ace up his sleeve. He springs the news that he's been tiptoeing around since entering the lounge. Word on the street is that "There's a man blown up in Greenwich Park" (4.66), and the papers are saying it was part of an attempt to blow up the Greenwich observatory.
    • Ossipon gloats that this must spoil the bomb dude's day, since a man has just gone and randomly done the very thing that's supposed to make the bomb dude so special. Ossipon goes on to say that he had no clue that any such attack was being planned by the anarchists, and is really worried that this little stunt will bring hellfire down on the anarchists and left-wing radicals in England. Also, he's pretty miffed at the bomb dude for just giving his explosives away to whoever asks for them.
    • The bomb guy replies that the world doesn't get changed with pen and ink, but with bombs, and that he couldn't care less if Ossipon and all his buddies were rounded up and killed.
    • Ossipon goes on to tell the bomb guy that the police should just shoot him dead in the street, which would definitely happen if the bomb guy lived in the United States instead of England. According to Ossipon, Americans are more willing to ignore the law if it means getting a job done.
    • The bomb guy insists that what anarchists want is for cops to just start shooting people in broad daylight, because this would bring about the total collapse of the law, which is supposed to be the goal of anarchism. But Ossipon and his kind will never understand this.
    • Ossipon changes the subject, and straight up asks who it was that blew himself up in Greenwich.
    • The bomb-guy only needs to say one word: "Verloc" (4.97).
    • Ossipon is floored, but the first thing he wonders about is what Verloc's wife Winnie will do now that Verloc's dead. Meanwhile, the bomb guy just sits there without much interest. You find out at this point that he tends to go by the nickname of "The Professor" (4.104).
    • In the past, The Professor held a few jobs as a chemist (which would explain his ability to make bombs). But he always thought he was being treated unfairly. "His struggles, his privations, his hard work to raise himself in the social scale, had filled him with such an exalted conviction of his merits that it was extremely difficult for the world to treat him with justice" (4.104). Basically, the guy is convinced of his greatness, and sees it as a horrible injustice when people don't bow down to him. He either plays by his own rules, or blows up himself and everyone around him. It's tough to negotiate with a guy like that.
    • Ossipon can't believe what he's heard. He doesn't seem to respect Verloc intellectually, and wonders how the man could have found the courage to get himself blown up. The Professor basically says that Verloc either must have misjudged the bomb's timer or simply dropped the thing by accident.
    • The Professor gets up to leave. Ossipon thinks of going to Verloc's shop to see Winnie, but is worried that police might be waiting there. He wonders out loud about what he should do. The Professor leans into his ear and says, "Fasten yourself upon the woman for all she's worth" (4.124).
    • Ossipon leaves the lounge after the Professor, but can't see the little dude once he's in the street. There are posters spread all over the ground and covered in filth. Ossipon looks among the crowds of people surging through the street, and realizes that "The trade in afternoon papers was brisk, yet, in comparison with the swift, constant march of foot traffic, the effect was of indifference, of a disregarded distribution" (4.126). Theme alert! This observation touches on the themes of randomness and indifference that Conrad explores throughout this book.
  • Chapter 5

    • Chapter Five follows the Professor after he has left the Silenus Restaurant. Right away, he becomes self-conscious about how short he is in the London crowd, but reassures himself by feeling the rubber ball in his pocket and fantasizing about all the people he could blow up if he chose to.
    • Here, the narrator gives us a little more background on the Professor, saying that he is "of humble origin" (5.1) and that because of his smallness and general ugliness, "his imagination had been fired early by the tales of men rising from the depths of poverty to positions of authority and affluence" (5.1). It's all well and good to want to rise up in the world, but the Professor's ambition has gone a little off the rails because of his "astounding ignorance of worldly conditions" (5.1). In other words, the Professor knows that he wants to be great, but doesn't know how to go about achieving it. So he doesn't plan on proving his greatness to people through "arts, graces, tact, [or] wealth," but by "sheer weight of merit alone" (5.1).
    • The Professor thinks that greatness is something that just exists inside him, and other people should acknowledge this fact whether he's good at anything or not. His idea of his own greatness is a total fantasy, and the fact that he's willing to die for this fantasy is what generally makes him a psychopath.
    • But the Professor temporarily loses his sense of greatness when he's walking among the massive crowds of London, which make him feel "miserable and undersized" (5.2). It's not just for physical reasons that he feels small, but emotional ones too.
    • Because, deep down, the Professor wants the world to acknowledge him as a superior person, but when he gazes around the crowds of London, he is terrified that the people of the crowds are "thoughtless like a natural force, pushing on blind and orderly and absorbed, impervious to sentiment, to logic, to terror, too, perhaps" (5.2).
    • Sure, he could blow himself up, but people would forget about him after a few weeks. This realization makes the Professor very anxious, and he yearns for "the refuge of his room" (5.3). Getting away from the crowds and being alone would allow him to rebuild the (psycho) fantasy of his greatness in peace.
    • To escape the crowd, he cuts down an alley and runs into Chief Inspector Heat of London's Special Crime Department. The Professor regains his courage, seeing that Heat is afraid of him. This is the Professor's rock-star moment.
    • The perspective shifts to Inspector Heat, who's already having a bad day. He basically guaranteed his boss that there wouldn't be any anarchist attacks on London, and now bam, someone's gone and blown himself up in Greenwich Park. Heat is sure that his men have been keeping a close watch on all known anarchists.
    • As if things couldn't get any worse, Heat recalls how he had to visit Greenwich earlier in the day to examine the remains of the bomber, who after the bomb went off looked like "an accumulation of raw material for a cannibal feast" (5.18). Blegh.
    • A local constable stands with Heat as he examines the remains. This constable is the guy who was first on the scene and who collected all of the bomber's body parts with a shovel. For a guy who just did such a gruesome job, this constable is actually pretty chatty.
    • Inspector Heat knows that the dead man must have died instantly, but can't look at the chunks of charred flesh without thinking that the dude must have suffered intense anguish. He wonders if time slows down for people when they die, or if people can endure a lifetime of pain in the single second it takes for them to die.
    • Yes, this novel just keeps getting cheerier and cheerier.
    • The constable tells Heat that the dead man was "a fair-haired fellow" (5.25). An old woman has confirmed this by saying that she saw two men leave a train at a rural station called Maze Hill. One was chubbier, the other skinny, and the skinny one was carrying a "tin varnish can" in one hand. This is the exact type of can that the Professor described to Ossipon as being the case for his bomb.
    • The constable says that the skinny person must have set off his bomb by stumbling over the exposed tree roots that are all over the Greenwich Park. The roots are easy to trip over, and it's a foggy day, so they'd be tough to see. Even though he's grossed out, Inspector Heat reaches into the chunks of flesh and pulls out "a narrow strip of velvet with a larger triangular piece of dark blue cloth hanging from it" (5.31).
    • While the constable continues to talk, Heat goes over to a window and examines something hanging from the piece of cloth. With a quick jerk, he detaches the piece he's examining and secretly shoves it into his pocket. After this, he grabs a train back into the heart of London. It's on his way back to the police headquarters that Heat has run into the Professor.
    • Heat tells the Professor that sooner or later, he's going to take out the little squirt. The Professor responds by saying that he hopes Inspector Heat doesn't mind the two of them being buried together, since people will never be able to sort out their chunks if the Professor decided to set off his bomb. Heat says that he's not afraid of the Professor. The Professor glances around, and seeing no one else, tells Heat to go ahead, since he might never have a better opportunity to take him out without killing other people in the process.
    • Heat replies that at the end of the day, the side he's on will win the battle against the Professor and men like him. The Professor stays pretty cocky through all this, until Heat remarks, "You'll find we are too many for you" (5.53). This appeal to the masses of London puts the Professor back where he was when he felt surrounded by the London "multitudes."
    • There's something about the idea of multitudes that undermines his fantasy of being a great individual. As Conrad tells us, "[t]he resisting power of numbers, the unattackable stolidity of a great multitude, [is] the haunting fear of his sinister loneliness" (5.56).
    • With this, the conversation breaks off, and Inspector Heat walks away feeling better about himself than the Professor does. Heat: 1, Professor: 0
    • When he gets back to headquarters, Heat visits the office of the Assistant Commissioner. The Assistant Commissioner starts by saying that Heat was right, and that none of the anarchists under police watch were the ones who committed the crime.
    • Inspector Heat delivers all the information he's collected so far, but leaves out the detail about the piece of cloth he retrieved from the body. It turns out that the second man at the scene (the one who didn't blow himself up) carried the varnish can out of the train at Greenwich Park Station and gave it to the skinnier one to go ahead and do the job alone.
    • The Assistant Commissioner questions the reliability of the old woman who described these two men, considering that the day was really foggy. But Inspector Heat says that there are people at the train station who can back up her description. The Assistant Commissioner walks over to the window and complains about how wet the London weather has been for the past few weeks (But it's London, dude. What do you expect?).
    • Heat gives the official description of the two men, who seem like "two respectable working-men of a superior sort—sign painters or house decorators" (5.76).
    • The Assistant Commissioner is still not very convinced, because if every London anarchist is accounted for, the two men must be foreign terrorists. And there is a really low chance of two foreign terrorists boarding a train at Maze Hill, which is a tiny country station.
    • Heat says that yes, this would be unusual, if Maze Hill weren't exactly where the convicted radical Michaelis was known to be living! Cue the ominous music.
  • Chapter 6

    • Meet the "lady patroness of Michaelis," an old wealthy woman who's decided to take care of the overweight ex-con in her country home. The narrator describes the woman as kind, but unwaveringly certain in her opinions. She's also good friends with the Assistant Commissioner's wife.
    • Now that she's old, the woman tends to amuse herself by gathering interesting people around her and making her country home into a sort of social hub. The reason she does this is because she's very curious about the direction the world's heading in.
    • The Assistant Commissioner is sitting with the woman in her house, unable to remember who first brought Michaelis to the lady's attention. 
    • The narrator explains the story behind Michaelis imprisonment, claiming that Michaelis was basically a young locksmith who didn't know what he was doing, but was brought in on a plan to rescue some prisoners from a police carriage.
    • His buddies were supposed to shoot the horses pulling the carriage, but they accidentally shot a cop, and three of them got hanged.
    • The public was really upset about the incident, so Michaelis got life in jail. This was back when Michaelis was "young and slim" (6.2). When he had to testify in court, he said he was very regretful that someone had died, but equally regretful that he wasn't able to save the prisoners. This made the court very angry, so he received life in prison.
    • Michaelis is also sitting in the room with the Assistant Commissioner, totally confident in the truth of his ideas, but in a very peaceful way, conveying them to everyone around him with nothing more than "the sterling quality of his optimism" (6.3).
    • After Michaelis leaves, the old lady waxes poetic on the injustice of keeping Michaelis locked up for twenty years. She and the Assistant Commissioner both know that Michaelis "is incapable of hurting a fly intentionally" (6.11).
    • The Assistant Commissiner knows that it's very dangerous for Michaelis to have his name mixed up in the whole bomb affair at Greenwich. He also knows that the old lady (and therefore his wife) would never forgive him if he got Michaelis thrown back in jail.
    • The book flashes forward to a conversation between the Assistant Commissioner and Inspector Heat. The Assistant Commissioner pushes Heat on the connection he's trying to make between Michaelis and the bomb affair. But now we know that this is because the Assistant Commissioner is personally invested in keeping Michaelis out of jail.
    • Basically, Heat can make the connection easily because of Michaelis "criminal" past. The Assistant Commissioner knows it, but he acts like he wants more conclusive evidence. Heat doesn't quite understand the man's hesitation, and thinks that the Assistant Commissioner is just a young administrator who's trying to throw his weight around.
    • At this point, Heat tells the Assistant Commissioner that Michaelis seems to spend most of his days at the old woman's country home working on a book that some London publisher has given him a bunch of cash to write. The book is supposed to be about Michaelis' experience as a political prisoner.
    • Finally, the Assistant Commissioner asks Heat to talk about something other than Michaelis. He wants to know what other evidence Heat has discovered at the crime scene. With this, Heat pulls out the piece of cloth he took from the human remains of the crime scene, and announces, "I've brought away an address" (6.73). He explains that he took the fabric away from the overcoat of the person who blew himself up. On the piece of cloth, he's found a "square of calico with an address written on it in marking ink" (6.74).
    • Heat is puzzled at why a person would walk around with his address sewn into his coat. He does remember a story, though, about an old man who did this because he was worried that he'd forget where he lived.
    • The address on the cloth is No. 32 Brett Street, which Heat tells the A.C. is the location of Verloc's shop. Heat then tells the Assistant Commissioner that the police have no record on Verloc, but that he (Heat) sometimes makes use of Verloc to gather information.
    • Because guess what? Heat already knows that Verloc's a spy! He's known it for years, and has been using Verloc as his own personal source of secret information. This is because seven years earlier, he threatened to blow Verloc's cover if the man didn't play ball.
    • The A.C. wants to know how Verloc's address could be connected to the bomb affair, and Heat confesses that he's got no clue. Of course, neither of these men know that Verloc has been ordered to "make something happen" in London.
    • Heat brings the convo back to Michaelis, and says again that he thinks Michaelis is their man. The Assistant Commissioner wants to know more about the second man who got away from the crime scene, but Heat argues that this man is probably long gone by this point.
  • Chapter 7

    • The Assistant Commissioner walks along a "short and narrow street like a wet, middy trench" (7.1) and eventually enters a public building, where he meets a young, fresh-faced male secretary. This secretary, who has the vibe of "a large and neat schoolboy" (7.2), looks at the Assistant Commissioner doubtfully and says that his boss probably won't be able to meet with him.
    • When the A.C. says that he's come to talk about the bomb in Greenwich, the secretary finally agrees to go check with his boss. The AC gets admitted to the private chambers of a member of English parliament named Sir Ethelred, whom the narrator describes as "Vast in bulk and stature, with a long white face, which, broadened at the base by a big double chin, appeared egg-shaped in the fringe of greyish whisker" (7.8). (Yes, Conrad seems to have a real hang-up about fat people, which we discuss further in the "Themes" section.)
    • The man from parliament wonders out loud if the recent attack is the beginning of a new wave of anarchist terrorism. The A.C. assures him that this isn't the case.
    • The man shoots back that he was given a guarantee by Inspector Heat "less than a month ago" that no attacks could take place (7.13).
    • The A.C. then tells Sir Ethelred about Verloc's involvement as a secret agent from the foreign embassy. Sir Ethelred agrees that this situation will require special treatment. Ethelred is red with anger over the foreign powers that mess with England in these backdoor ways.
    • The A.C. says that they really need to seek out and get rid of secret agents, since these agents are more harmful than helpful to society. The A.C. then adds that instead of using Heat, he wants to get to the bottom of the case personally.
    • He plans to visit Verloc and scare him into admitting something about what's going on. Ethelred gives the A.C. his blessing to figure out the case his own way. Parliament is working late this night, and Ethelred says that if the A.C. finds out anything, he should come straight back and tell him.
    • The A.C. returns to the police station and finds out that Heat has gone home for the day, taking with him the most important piece of evidence in the Greenwich case. You'd never get away with that sort of thing in an episode of CSI, though.
    • The A.C. sends off a note to his wife, saying that he won't be able to meet with her and Michaelis' great lady that night. He goes out into the wet London night and grabs a horse-drawn taxi. Then he rides it to an Italian restaurant and eats for a moment. Conrad takes a moment to talk smack about how unauthentic the Italian food in London is.
    • After this section, the Assistant Commissioner walks to Brett Street in search of Verloc's shop. During this time, the narrator keeps getting drearier and creepier in his descriptions of London.
    • The A.C. passes by another horse-drawn carriage, which seems to "merg[e] into one mass, seem[ing] [like] something alive—a square-backed black monster blocking off half the street" (7.102).
    • The street takes on an appearance that's "sullen, brooding, and sinister" (7.102). This description shows the mounting tension of the plot's rising action, and it's a very characteristic tone for Conrad, who often writes about dark, wet, and dreary places.
  • Chapter 8

    • We learn that Winnie's mother has a found a place for herself in a charity almshouse, which is basically a version of an old folks' home during Conrad's time. The news shocks Winnie, who asks her mother if she wasn't comfortable living with the Verlocs. After this, Winnie falls into a disappointed silence.
    • That leaves the issue of who owns the mother's furniture. The mother has only been given an apartment with nothing in it, so she'll need to take a few items with her. She makes sure to take only the crummiest pieces, though.
    • The mother then has to decide what to do with the furniture she leaves behind. She could give it to Stevie, but doesn't want it to seem as though Stevie has some sort of leverage on Mr. Verloc. No, its important to rely on Verloc's charity, and so Winnie's mother decides that "Stevie must remain destitute and dependent" (8.15).
    • They call for a ride to take the mother and all her stuff to the almshouse, and are confronted with a really junky old carriage. As if we didn't realize how bad this carriage is, Conrad makes sure to give the driver a metal hook where his hand's suppose to be. The horse pulling the carriage is no prize either, looking pretty sick and run-down.
    • This wobbly carriage makes the mother nervous, and she asks Winnie what she thinks. After a brief moment, they're convinced to get up on the cab and start jolting on their way. Stevie comes with them and climbs onto the box to sit beside the carriage driver.
    • As they travel, Stevie gets upset and tells the man not to whip his horse. The man keeps whipping anyway, and this makes Stevie jump off the carriage. He runs around to the window and shouts "Too heavy. Too heavy" to Winnie and his mother.
    • The women order him to get back on the cab, but he wants to walk, thinking it'll make things easier on the horse. Winnie thinks this is ridiculous, and threatens Stevie by saying that Mr. Verloc will be very displeased if he doesn't get back onto the carriage, so Stevie does it.
    • The narrator talks about how Winnie's mother is basically sacrificing herself for Stevie's protection. It's possible that the mother has detected the stress that's been piling up on Verloc, and she wants to relieve the pressure on him by taking herself out of the equation.
    • So the old woman painfully leaves her children "as an act of devotion and as a move of deep policy" (8.45).
    • Returning to the present, the narrator describes how the mother asks Winnie to come visit her every Sunday. Winnie says she'll try, but won't always be able to come when Stevie visits. The mother gets upset at this and worries that Stevie will lose his way. Winnie answers her, "I'll see to it that he don't get lost for long" (8.65). Did someone say foreshadowing?
    • At this moment, the carriage grinds to a halt and they arrive at the almshouse. After they've taken out all the parcels and loaded the stuff into the house, Stevie stands under a streetlamp, and the carriage driver pokes him with his hook and starts chatting him up about how terrible his life is. He tells Stevie about how he has to drive his horse around all day and night, just to make enough money to keep his wife and four children from starving to death.
    • This gets Stevie very upset, and he starts shouting "Bad! Bad!" Stevie tries to think of some way to make sense of the world's badness, to somehow make it all better, but he can't string his thoughts together. Convinced that Stevie now pities him, the driver climbs back up on the cab and drives away for a little while, then stops at a pub down the street, probably to drink away some (or all) of the money he supposedly needs to feed his family.
    • Stevie is left alone with his agitated thoughts. Winnie comes over to soothe him. Unlike Stevie, who always tries to get to the heart of things, Winnie "waste[s] no portion of this transient life in seeking for fundamental information" (8.92).
    • Winnie settles Stevie down by asking him to take care for her. This makes Stevie straighten up and puff out his chest like a man, happy to take on the role of a brotherly protector.
    • They walk past the pub where the carriage is pulled up. Winnie makes a remark about the poor, sick horse. But Stevie is quick to tell her that the driver has a hard life, too. He is overcome again by thinking about the pain of the world, but Winnie says he can't help any of it.
    • Suddenly, Stevie suggests that the police can banish evil from the world, but Winnie says that the police can't help either, because their job is to protect the people who have stuff from the people who don't have stuff. Stevie is overcome by how terrible the world is. Winnie tells him again not to worry about it, since he's never hungry himself.
    • When they get back home, Verloc is there glancing at a newspaper. He barely even notices them because he's so distracted by his thoughts. When Verloc disappears into the shop, Winnie suddenly starts to miss her mother.
    • Winnie asks Mr. Verloc if he'll be going out that night. He hates the idea of going out, but then goes out anyway, searching for some sort of comfort that London can't give him. When he comes back, he stands by his bed in his socks for a while. Winnie says she doesn't understand why her mother has left, but Verloc answers, "Perhaps it's just as well" (8.135).
    • Winnie wonders what Verloc means by this, but doesn't ask any questions because she believes that "things [do] not stand being looked into" (8.136). She intentionally turns a blind eye to this vague statement by Verloc. The narrator mentions that at this moment, Verloc almost tells his wife about his entire predicament. "Mr Verloc loved his wife as a wife should be loved—that is, martially, with the regard one has for one's chief possession" (8.139).
    • When he gets into bed next to her, he tells Winnie that he plans to leave England for "the Continent" (mainland Europe) the next day.
  • Chapter 9

    • Mr. Verloc returns from his trip to the Continent after being gone for ten days, but doesn't seem to be any happier. He enters his shop "sombre and vexed" (9.1) and goes straight to the chair behind the counter to sit down.
    • Stevie is in the shop dusting a few things, and he stares at Verloc "with reverence and awe" (9.1). Mr. Verloc kicks his bag on the floor and Stevie pounces on it to take it away for him. The motion is "so prompt that Mr. Verloc [is] directly surprised" (9.2).
    • Several people have come to visit Winnie during Verloc's absence, including Michaelis, who came to tell her that he was going to go live "in a cottage in the country" (9.6). While this doesn't sound like a major statement, it drastically affects the timeline of the book, because at this moment, you realize that everything that's been happening since the beginning of chapter eight (Winnie's mother's decision to leave) has happened before the bomb goes off in Greenwich Park. Without telling you, Conrad has thrown you back a few weeks in time in the shift from chapter seven to chapter eight.
    • Winnie tells Verloc that Stevie has moped a great deal since his mother left. Verloc doesn't want to hear about Stevie, but keeps silent out of generosity. At this point, Winnie makes a point of telling Verloc, "you could do anything with that boy, Adolph […] [Stevie] would go through fire for you" (9.10).
    • Winnie turns her ear to the door of the kitchen and hears Mrs. Neale complaining to Stevie about what a hard life she has with all of her children to feed. Mrs. Neale does this because she's discovered that Stevie will hand over his allowance to her. Winnie knows that Mrs. Neale doesn't spend this money on her kids at all, but just drinks it away at a bar.
    • Winnie can hear Stevie striking the kitchen table out of anger at the injustice of the world. She goes in to calm him down and to tell Mrs. Neale to stop being such a jerk.
    • Later that day, Verloc says he's going to head out for a walk, and Winnie asks him to bring Stevie along, since Stevie's been in such horrible moods lately. Mr. Verloc says he doesn't want to be responsible if Stevie wanders away. But Winnie assures him that Stevie will find his way home eventually. More foreshadowing…
    • Verloc agrees to take Stevie with him, and Winnie watches as the two of them walk away together. They both wear similar hats and coats, and seeing them from behind, Winnie muses that they even look a little bit like father and son. She congratulates herself on getting Verloc to take such good care of Stevie.
    • Winnie even notices that even though Verloc is still a little bit quiet, he's not so depressed as he was before. Stevie, though, starts coming home angry and "mutter[ing] to himself in corners" (9.30). Winnie asks him what's the matter, but Stevie keeps it tight. He stops drawing his circles and instead walks around the house with his fists clenched. Winnie begins to fear that Stevie is hearing too much of Mr. Verloc's conversations with his anarchist friends.
    • Winnie talks to Verloc about not letting Stevie hear too much of his radical friend's beliefs. Verloc counters by suggesting that Stevie should spend some time in the country to calm down. He suggests that Stevie should go stay with Michaelis, since "There [are] no visitors and no talk there" (9.33).
    • Winnie agrees, and the next day, Verloc takes Stevie out into the country. At this point, your dread might be starting to build, since you know that the person who blew himself up at Greenwich boarded a train at the rural town where Michaelis is staying.
    • The next day, Stevie agrees to go without any hassle. Winnie tells him not to get his clothes dirty in the country, and Stevie gives her a look he's never given her before: a "don't treat me like a kid" sort of look.
    • While Stevie's gone, Winnie is often at the shop alone, since Mr. Verloc still takes his long walks. This eventually brings us to the day of "the attempted bomb outrage in Greenwich Park" (9.40), a day when Winnie spends all of her time alone, since Stevie is in the country and Mr. Verloc "went out early that morning and did not come back till nearly dusk" (9.40). She sits and sews until Mr. Verloc finally comes in.
    • She asks him if he's been to see Stevie, and Mr. Verloc softly slams the parlor door and says he hasn't. Winnie gets ready to make Verloc some tea, but finds him sitting by the fire and shaking all over.
    • She's worried that he's catching a cold from being out on such a wet day. She asks where he's been, but he says "Nowhere" (9.53). Then Verloc adds that he's been to the bank to withdraw all of their savings.
    • Winnie is dumbstruck at this news and wants to know why he took out their money. She gets out knives and forks and starts setting the table to give Verloc some food to feed his cold.
    • Verloc tells her she can trust him, and she agrees as she calls him to the dinner table for some grub. His eyes are bloodshot, his hair ruffled. She tells him he can't go out again that evening, and he answers that he's not thinking about going out, but only of going to maybe France or California.
    • Winnie is dumbstruck again, having no clue about what's going on. She tries to blame Verloc's cold for his crazy thinking, but he keeps going on and on about how they'll have to leave the country. Winnie tells him to stop being stupid, and suddenly wishes she had Stevie back around the house.
    • When the shop's bell rings, Verloc goes into the shop and comes back quickly after. Winnie notices that "He [has] gone in red [and come] out a strange papery white" (9.100). Winnie asks what's wrong, and he tells her that he needs to go out. Winnie decides to go into the shop to check out the customer who's messed up her husband. The man is tall and thin, and wears his mustache twisted up at the ends. He is a "dark man, with the ridge of the cheekbone well defined under the slightly hollow temple" (9.103). She does not recognize him, and knows that he's not a normal customer.
    • She starts asking the dude questions about where he's come from, probably assuming he's some radical that Verloc is supposed to find a place for in England. The man keeps giving mysterious, annoying answers to her questions.
    • Winnie gets impatient and goes back into the house, finding Verloc still leaning against the table and staring forward. She then asks if the man outside is one of the people from the Embassy who have been bothering Verloc.
    • Verloc loses his mind and demands to know how Winnie knows about his connection with the Embassy. Winnie says that he's been talking in his sleep and revealing things, although she doesn't seem to know the exact nature of his connection with the Embassy.
    • Verloc gets angry and rams his hat onto his head, saying "The Embassy people! I would cut their hearts out one after another. But let them look out. I've got a tongue in my head" (9.136). Winnie tells him to get rid of the man outside however he can, and to let her look after him. Just when he's about to leave, she calls him back and orders him to give her the savings he took out of the bank.
    • After he gives it to her, she stuffs it "under the bodice of her dress" (9.143). Verloc leaves, but soon afterwards another person comes into the shop.
    • The narrator informs us that the new dude is Chief Inspector Heat, who's also looking for Verloc. Winnie tells him that Verloc just went out with someone, and Heat gets angry when he realizes that the Assistant Commissioner has beaten him to the punch by just a few minutes.
    • Heat tells Winnie he doesn't have time to wait for Verloc, but then asks Winnie about the bomb outrage at Greenwich Park. Winnie hasn't been out of the house all day and doesn't even know about any bomb yet.
    • Heat then drops a total bomb (so to speak), and mentions that he's come into the possession of a stolen overcoat. He talks about the piece of cloth he took from the crime scene, and Winnie gets really nervous, saying that it belongs to her brother's coat.
    • Heat asks where this brother is, and Winnie says he's been living out in the country with Michaelis. Now, you can really start to see Conrad's dreadful threads being drawn together.
    • Heat asks why his address was sewn inside his coat, and Winnie explains that Stevie is mentally disabled and needs to be taken care of.
    • Winnie asks how Stevie came to lose his coat, and Heat pulls out a newspaper from that day. He also plunges his hand into his pocket and pulls out the tattered piece of cloth. Winnie is alarmed by the piece of cloth, and asks why it's so mangled.
    • Heat snatches the cloth back from her, having identified the victim of the bomb. At this moment, "he [has] a glimpse into the whole amazing truth. Verloc [is] the other man" (9.208). At this point, we're pretty certain that Verloc passed the bomb to Stevie after leaving the train at Greenwich, and Stevie somehow tripped and blew himself up. Good ol' gruesome Conrad does it again.
    • Heat tries to explain the whole thing to Winnie, but just before he can, Verloc walks back into the shop. He's mad at seeing Heat there, and calls him into the parlor to talk. Winnie runs to the keyhole to listen as they speak.
    • In a fragmented version, she hears about Verloc's involvement with the bomb at Greenwich Park. Heat tells Verloc he must have been crazy to hatch a plan like he did, and Verloc says it doesn't matter, because the whole truth is going to come out. He's going to sell out the embassy and tell everything he knows in court. It's the only way he can bring Mr. Vladimir down with him.
    • Heat says if Verloc left the country, the police wouldn't come after him. All this time, Winnie is putting together the pieces of what her husband's done. She listens as Heat explains how the body had to be scooped up with a shovel. At this, she jumps up and plugs her ears, going insane with shock and grief. She notices the newspaper left by the Chief Inspector, tears it up, and throws it on the floor.
    • On the other side of the door, Heat finally concedes that Verloc will make a full confession. Heat is not satisfied with this, since he wants to keep Verloc as a private resource and doesn't want to lose all of the secret information networks that this confession will tear down.
    • Heat's also sorry that the whole affair will leave Michaelis free to go. The only people who will go down are the ones who're actually useful for fighting crime.
    • Heat again advises Verloc to get out of town, saying that everyone probably already thinks that he's dead. Verloc is happy to hear this news, but he's got no clue where he'd flee to.
    • Verloc then tries to argue that the court won't punish him for leading Stevie to his death, since "the lad was half-witted, irresponsible" (9.260). Heat interrupts him and says the boy may have been half-witted, but he (Verloc) must have been crazy for doing what he did.
    • After this, Heat leaves. As he goes, the narrator's focus shifts to Winnie, who is now sitting behind the shop's counter. And in the final lines of this chapter, we learn of how "the gold circlet of wedding ring on Mrs Verloc's left hand […] dropped in a dust-bin" (9.265). There's no doubt now. Winnie knows what Verloc has done, and it turns out that murdering her brother is a total deal-breaker.
  • Chapter 10

    • The Assistant Commissioner rides in a cab back to the parliament building. When he arrives, he runs into Toodles. Toodles is very surprised to find that the A.C. has returned so quickly, and assumes that something must have gone wrong with the investigation.
    • He lets the A.C. in to see Ethelred, who is still waiting around. As they walk toward the office, Toodles asks the A.C. if he's captured the man he's looking for.
    • The A.C. says yes, and tells Toodles that an honorary member of the exclusive Explorers' Club has been involved with the Greenwich bombing. Toodles is shocked, being someone who assumes that high-society folk could never get mixed up with crime.
    • He's actually morally offended, and preserves "a scandalized and solemn silence" (10.24) after the A.C. tells him this.
    • The A.C. goes into Ethelred's office and recounts how he got a full confession out of Verloc. He says that Michaelis had nothing at all to do with Greenwich. Both Ethelred and the A.C. find it weird that Verloc would take such desperate actions because of Mr. Vladimir, but they don't fully understand Verloc's commitment to laziness, and his fear and anger at having his laziness threatened.
    • The A.C. then muses about the man who blew himself up, who he confirms to be Verloc's brother-in-law, Stevie. He doesn't know how Stevie could've gotten away with the crime even if he'd lived, but the narrator tells us that the A.C. doesn't realize how loyal Stevie was to Verloc.
    • After this meeting, the A.C. travels home for a moment, then goes out to meet his wife at the home of "the great lady patroness of Michaelis" (10.59). When he gets there, he sees the lady patroness sitting with two people, one man and one woman.
    • At this point, the woman introduces the A.C. to the man sitting at the foot of her couch, who turns out to be Mr. Vladimir. Mr. Vladimir has supposedly been "frightening" the old woman with horror stories about left-wing radicals, trying to spread fear about them in the wake of the Greenwich Park incident.
    • Realizing who Mr. Vladimir is, the A.C. now can't resist saying, "I've no doubt that Mr. Vladimir has a very precise notion of the true importance of this affair" (10.76). This sets Vladimir's thoughts churning, and he instantly wonders what the A.C. could mean by this comment.
    • This is exactly what the A.C. wanted to provoke, since he knows from Verloc about Vladimir's involvement with the whole Greenwich affair.
    • Vladimir responds that yes, his job has made him very familiar with radicals and their tactics. He tries to dig at the A.C. by saying that he wouldn't have to know so much if the English police knew their business and were a little more aggressive. After this, he gets up to leave, but the A.C. follows him.
    • Once outside, the A.C. tells Vladimir that Verloc has exposed the connection between the Embassy, and the business in Greenwich Park. Vladimir says no one will ever believe Verloc, but the A.C. assures him that Verloc's knowledge of specific details will definitely convince the public.
    • Vladimir starts to feel sick. The A.C. says that his favorite aspect of the whole case is that it will be the starting point for his crusade to banish all foreign agents and their bosses from England. "the clearing of this country of all the foreign political spies, police, and that sort of— of— dogs" (10.96).
    • Vladimir asks if the A.C. truly means to take everything public, and the A.C. says he has no choice, since Verloc wants to reveal everything in court.
    • Vladimir raises his hand for a cab. The A.C. tells him he (Vladimir) can't get in, but Vladimir gets in anyway and drives away. The A.C. looks across the street to the face of the Explorers' Club, where he knows he won't be seeing Mr. Vladimir in the future. As far as England goes, Mr. Vladimir and all of his cronies are done.
  • Chapter 11

    • The chapter returns to Mr. Verloc, who is standing in his shop following the departure of Chief Inspector Heat. The narrator gives us access to Mr. Verloc's thoughts, which center on how he never intended for Stevie to die.
    • He'd thought that the worst thing that could happen is that Stevie would be arrested. He hadn't anticipated the whole thing coming back to him so quickly, hadn't anticipated Stevie's address being sewn into his clothes. He realizes that "that was what she meant when she said that he need not worry if he lost Stevie during their walks" (11.2).
    • He thinks that "she ought to have told him of the precaution she'd taken" (11.3), as if Winnie should've somehow known that he was going to hand her brother a bomb and send him off to blow up an observatory.
    • But then again, he uses his generosity to resist scolding his wife for her mistake. "The unexpected march of events [has] converted him to the doctrine of fatalism" (11.4).
    • In other words, Verloc no longer believes that humans are in control of their lives. It's just randomness and bad luck. He tells Winnie that he didn't mean for any harm to come to Stevie. He then blames Heat for telling her everything and upsetting her. He talks about how hard it was for him to sit around all day, thinking of a way to tell her the news. His self-centeredness really shines through in these passages.
    • At this point, he follows Winnie into the house and notices that the roast beef and bread from his dinner is still sitting on the dining room table. Starving, he cuts himself off a piece and bolts it down. This isn't because he's callous, but because he hasn't eaten a thing all day.
    • He says that the situation can't be helped, and that Winnie needs to be rational if they're going to plan for the future. Winnie, however, simply heaves with sadness and doesn't answer him. Her silence bothers him. The narrator sarcastically adds that "Mr Verloc was a humane man; he had come home prepared to allow every latitude to his wife's affection for her brother" (11.16). But he really, really doesn't understand the depth of Winnie's emotional attachment to Stevie.
    • He doesn't think of relationships as relative, but as being based on the actual worthiness of the person being loved. Because of this, he considers himself much more important than Winnie's "Half-witted" brother. But he doesn't understand the kind of love and devotion that has grown out of Winnie's life as a protector to Stevie.
    • He becomes more severe with her, telling her that she "can't sit like this in the shop" (11.21). There are practical matters that they need to discuss, now that he's been found out. He tells her to stop crying and asks how much worse it would've been if she'd lost him instead of Stevie. Yeah, dude really doesn't get it.
    • Verloc thinks about his situation again, and knows that he'll have to go to prison. But this is a good thing, since it'll protect him from all the people who'll want to kill him once he exposes himself as a spy and talks publicly about all the things that he (and his bosses) have been involved in.
    • He's already thinking about moving abroad as soon as he's released. He thinks about how Winnie will have to keep the shop running for a couple of years while he's in prison. "Though Mr Verloc's fatalism accepted his undoing as a secret agent, he had no mind to be utterly ruined, mostly, it must be owned, from regard for his wife" (11.27).
    • It's hard to gauge the narrator's sympathy for Verloc here, but it seems to be insisting that Verloc really does love Winnie, and just doesn't see his situation for what it is, since he can't stop thinking about himself. Unlike Stevie, he does not have the imagination to relate his pain to the pain of others.
    • He reminds himself that this is "no evening for business" (11.28), so he gets up to close the shop and put out the gaslight. Mr. Verloc walks into the parlor and glances down the two steps into the kitchen. Winnie is sitting in the place Stevie usually uses for drawing his circles.
    • Mr. Verloc watches her from behind, trying to learn something, but all he gets is a crude outline of how she feels. He starts telling her about all the other bomb plots he's dealt with in his career, probably trying to make Stevie's death part of a larger picture.
    • When he looks back up, he is startled by his wife's stare. She seems to be looking through him. He asks her if she understands him, and she answers, "No […] What are you talking about?"
    • He tells her to go to bed, believing that what she wants is a good cry. At this, we get a long narration of what's going on in Winnie's head, and we're carried back into her childhood, when she would risk herself to protect Stevie from their abusive father: "She had the vision of the blows intercepted (often with her own head), of a door held desperately shut against a man's rage (not for very long)" (11.51).
    • She then has a crushing memory of all the years she spent in her parent's boarding house, carrying trays and haggling with boarders. She thinks of "a young man wearing his Sunday best, with a straw hat on his dark head and a wooden pipe in his mouth" (11.52). This is the young butcher boy whom she truly loved, but had to give up marrying because he could not afford to take care of her mother and Stevie.
    • She thinks of how the years with Mr. Verloc had increased her confidence in Stevie's safety. She thinks of how she's happily lived with Verloc, despite the "occasional passage of Comrade Ossipon, the robust anarchist with shamelessly inviting eyes" (11.53), who has apparently always watched her with a vibe of sexual aggression.
    • Suddenly, her mind returns to the last moment she ever saw Stevie, when he was walking away with Verloc and she thought that they looked like father and son. At that moment, she had congratulated herself with the thought that shed truly guaranteed Stevie's safety. This memory now tortures her.
    • Verloc, meanwhile, keeps raving about the Embassy people and how he's going to take them all down with his testimony. He also says that oh-so-fateful phrase, "Nothing on earth can stop me now" (11.61).
    • At this point, Winnie says through her teeth that she thought Mr. Verloc had caught a cold, meaning that she hadn't realized why he was so rattled when he came home that evening.
    • Verloc tells her not to worry, says that he won't let the revolutionists "do away with him" (11.75) because he's too fond of Winnie to let that happen. He gives a nervous laugh at this, but gets no response from Winnie.
    • The narrator informs us that Winnie has been overcome by a "fixed idea," and that nothing Verloc says can overcome this idea. She tries to remember where Stevie actually died, but the name of the place escapes her for the moment. Finally, Winnie gets up from her seat and goes upstairs. Verloc encourages her, saying that she needs sleep and that he'll be up in a bit. The thought of him touching her makes her sick.
    • She disappears upstairs, and Mr. Verloc is overtaken by "unappeasable hunger" (11.92). He goes back to the table and starts going to town on the roast beef.
    • He is startled by the fact that he can't hear Winnie moving upstairs, but feels better once he hears her moving. He gets startled again, though, when he hears her put on her walking shoes. She comes back down the stairs, dressed to go out into the night. He tells her that he won't allow her to leave the house. This statement makes Winnie realize that Mr. Verloc will never let her go now. She says nothing back to him, though, and his patience reaches its end.
    • He repeats his earlier speech about how much risk he has taken to give her a good life, and that he never intended for Stevie to die. He says that he hunted high and low for dozens of other men to do the job, but couldn't find anyone. It was just an accident, he says, as though Stevie was hit by a bus while crossing the street.
    • He even goes on to say that Stevie's death is as much Winnie's fault as his own, since Winnie was always pushing Stevie into Verloc's life, wanting him to take the boy on walks. The idea would never have come into Verloc's head if it hadn't been for Winnie.
    • He then tells her she's lucky that he's such a wonderful guy. When she says nothing still, he feels tired and moves over to lie on the sofa in his coat, the back of which is facing Winnie. He thinks aloud that he wishes he'd never seen Greenwich Park.
    • The mention of the place where Stevie blew himself up jogs Winnie's memory. "Greenwich Park. A park! That's where the boy was killed" (11.114). She also remembers that the police had had to scoop up Stevie's remains with a shovel. This image seems to make her snap completely.
    • Anyone looking at her would know something was different. But Mr. Verloc is facing the other side of the room now, and the back of the couch is separating him from her.
    • At this point, Verloc thinks he's won Winnie over again. He say's "Come here […] in a peculiar tone, which might have been the tone of brutality, but was intimately known to Mrs. Verloc as the note of wooing" (11.119). That's right, folks. Verloc thinks that this is a good time to flirt with his wife and invite her to have sex with him. Verloc hears her coming toward him, and is happy.
    • As Winnie passes the dining table, and "the carving knife [vanishes] without the slightest sound from the side of the dish" (11.120). Again, Verloc doesn't see this because of his positioning.
    • The narrator also tells us that right down to the drooping lip, Winnie takes on the appearance of Stevie as she approaches the couch. This shifting of appearance seems to hint that in some way, Stevie is about to avenge himself through his sister.
    • Winnie reaches over the edge of the couch and plunges the knife into Verloc's chest. Verloc has enough time to see what's about to happen, even enough time to formulate a plan for escape, but not enough time to actually act. The knife is in him, and the only word that can escape his mouth is "Don't" (11.121).
    • With the deed done, Winnie leans against the sofa and rests her arms on it. As she rests, though, she hears a loud ticking sound, and glances at the clock across the room. She remembers that the tick of this clock is completely silent, and then looks around for the source of the noise. Her eyes eventually lead her back to the body of her husband, where she sees drops of blood running to the edge of the knife handle and falling to the wooden floor, making a tic tic tic sound. This sound eventually turns into a steady flow as the blood comes out more and more, falling in a constant stream from the knife.
    • For the first time since hearing about Stevie's death, Winnie's wits seem to come back to her. She totally freaks out about what she's done and smashes into the kitchen table as she runs from Verloc's body.
  • Chapter 12

    • Winnie stops at the parlor door. She's run from the blood, but now that she's away from it, she fully regains her wits (or what's left of them). She looks at her husband and realizes that he's no longer the man who murdered Stevie, just some dead guy. She realizes that there's only one murderer in the room now, and that it's her.
    • Winnie, who's never been one to look deep into things, now has to look very deep into what she's just done. She realizes that she'll be hanged for killing her husband. She envisions the gallows in the middle of a prison yard, herself hanging in them, with a bunch of strangers in silk hats gathered around her. "It came with a cruel burning pain into her head, as if the words the drop given was fourteen feet had been scratched on her brain with a hot needle" (12.4).
    • This thought continues to echo in her head, driving her nuts. She glances up at the clock and realizes that only a few minutes have passed since she killed Verloc. She feels as if time has almost stopped completely. Unable to deal with the idea of being hanged, she resolves to go to the Thames River and drown herself. But her movements are hesitant and slow.
    • She "flounder[s] over the doorstep head forward, arms thrown out, like a person falling over the parapet of a bridge" (12.7). She's out on the street. She thinks of going to her mother, but feels that their bond is broken now that Stevie is dead. It seems that Stevie was the only thing connecting her to the world.
    • She repeats to herself, "To the bridge—and over I go" (12.8). Dizziness overtakes her, and she realizes that shell never make it to a river before morning. She then entertains the idea of escaping to another country, like Spain maybe. But the kind of people who do that sort of thing "ha[ve] friends, relations, helpers—they ha[ve] knowledge" (12.12). Winnie, however, has no knowledge and no friends.
    • As she continues down the street, Comrade Ossipon sees her, and figures he might strike up a conversation with a drunk woman. He helps her steady herself and hears her call his name. He's shocked that it's Mrs. Verloc, since he's hardly ever known her to leave her house, let alone go out drinking.
    • Ossipon realizes that Winnie is sober, but very agitated. At this point, Winnie slips her hand under his arm, further confusing him. He walks with her for a while and lets her lead him.
    • Winnie lies and says she was about to go find him, since she has realized that there's no one in the world more likely to help her than Ossipon, whom she thinks she can win over sexually.
    • Ossipon says he's more than ready to help her in her trouble. Of course, Ossipon still thinks that Verloc was the man who blew himself up in Greenwich.
    • Winnie, though, wants to know how Ossipon knows about her "trouble," thinking that he's referring to her murdering Verloc.
    • At this point, Ossipon decides to confess directly that he's always had his eye on Winnie. He talks about how she was always so distant, and she says that she had to be, being a respectable, married woman.
    • But now, she says she hates Verloc for what he's done to her. Ossipon says he thought she loved Verloc, and she says she hated him always. She goes on to explain her whole story to Ossipon, including how she had to give up her true love, the butcher's boy, in order to protect her brother and mother. Ossipon is stunned by all of this, but hey, he'll take it if it means getting Winnie to like him. He tells her not to worry because Verloc is dead now.
    • When Winnie hears this, she exclaims, "You guessed what I had to do" (12.51), thinking once again that Ossipon knows about Verloc's murder. Ossipon, though, doesn't know what she's talking about, and chalks it up to her stress.
    • He does start to wonder, though, how Winnie has found out about Verloc's death (which he still thinks was due to the bomb in Greenwich), since the papers could not have told her anything specific. He asks her how she first came to hear of "it," meaning Verloc's death.
    • Winnie, though, thinks he's talking about Stevie's death, so she says that she first heard from Chief Inspector Heat, and explains how they had to scoop up the body with a shovel. Hearing this name makes Ossipon totally freak out, because it confirms that the police have already traced the bomb back to Verloc, which puts Ossipon in danger for hanging around Winnie.
    • He wants to know exactly what Heat said to Winnie. She explains that he just told her about the incident, then went away. She also says that another man came that night. Ossipon wants to know who this other person was, and she explains that it might have been one of the people from the embassy.
    • Now Ossipon really wonders what he's gotten himself into. All this stuff about bombs, the cops, and now embassies has shown him that this whole plot goes a lot deeper than he once thought. He demands more information, but Winnie tells him to stop asking questions and leave her alone on the matter.
    • Winnie asks him to hide her until the morning. He says its no good, since there'll be cops at every train station in the morning.
    • Ossipon says he can't take her anywhere else, because he doesn't have enough money for a room. Winnie, however, reveals that she has all of her husband's savings on her.
    • Now she hugs him again and asks him to save her. Finally, he manages to ask her what she's so afraid of, since she presumably doesn't have anything to do with Verloc's bomb scheme. She asks him if he hasn't guessed yet what she's been forced to do. He still doesn't quite get it. And at this moment, he remembers that there's a boat that can get them away from England before the morning.
    • He starts to move with her toward their destination, but she yanks him back to Brett Street. He wants to know what's up, but she just says she's forgotten to shut the door of the shop. Ossipon doesn't care about this, but she forces him, and besides, he thinks there might be some more cash in the shops register.
    • Winnie points out to him that the light is on in the parlor, and she can't stand the idea of leaving it on. Ossipon goes into the parlor and finds Verloc's body. Only now does he realize what has actually happened. Now he thinks he's walked into some sort of trap, since he is now close enough to the body to be framed for the murder.
    • From the shop, he hears Winnie say that a policeman is coming. The policeman comes by the shop, while Winnie and Ossipon stay just inside, she hugging him so that he can't get away from her. After a tense moment, the policeman moves on. Winnie keeps telling Ossipon to kill her if the cop catches them, and now Ossipon is completely freaked out with what he's gotten himself into.
    • As if sensing his hesitation, Winnie tells Ossipon that shell do anything for him if he gets her out of this mess alive. She even agrees to be his mistress, and says she won't ask him to marry her. She goes on to explain how Verloc started blaming her for Stevie's fate, and how he'd tried to get her to have sex with him.
    • At this point, Ossipon also realizes that Stevie is the one who has died in the park. He becomes more convinced with every passing second that Winnie "[is] not deadly. She [is] death itself" (12.134).
    • Winnie threatens Ossipon by saying that she won't let him leave her now. She might be implying that she'll drag him into Verloc's murder if he tries to leave her.
    • Finally, Ossipon tells her that they have to go before they miss their train. He flags down a hansom cab and gets in with her, then explains how they'll have to enter the train station looking like they don't know each other. Hell buy both of their tickets and pass her hers as they walk past one another in the station. They'll board separately, and then meet up inside the train. He says that there might already be men at the station who'd know him by sight.
    • When they reach the train station, they execute their plan. Ossipon asks Winnie for the money to buy the tickets, and she reaches into her dress and hands him all the money she has.
    • After they're on the train, Ossipon takes a moment to really look Winnie over. He "gaze[s] scientifically at the woman, the sister of a degenerate, a degenerate herself—of a murdering type" (12.186).
    • As you might recall, Ossipon subscribes to the ideas of a guy named Lombroso, who says you can scientifically figure out if a person is a natural born murderer just by looking at his or her skull. Without affection, and with every bit of self-preservation he has in him, Ossipon "gaze[s] at her cheeks, at her nose, at her eyes, at her ears… Bad!... Fatal!" (12.186).
    • He realizes that there's no way he can trust her. He believes that based on clear scientific evidence (which is ridiculous), he has a complete idea of Winnie's nature. Basically, he's terrified that as soon as Winnie's done with him, she'll just kill him the way she killed Verloc.
    • Ossipon takes a moment to remark on the similarity between Winnie and her brother. Winnie answers that Ossipon always took notice of Stevie, and that she loved him (Ossipon) for it.
    • Ossipon tells Winnie to sit at the opposite end of the train car, and then checks the clock. Soon, he feels the train beginning to roll, and just when it reaches the end of the platform, he throws open the trains door and jumps out. He smacks the platform and tumbles "like a shot rabbit" (12.198) for a while, then gets up and dusts himself off. He's totally hung Winnie out to dry, and has escaped with all of the money she had on her.
    • A bunch of people crowd around him, and he makes up an excuse for needing to get off the train. Everyone has a good laugh, and he walks away. He goes back to his apartment and sits on his bed, clutching his knees until morning.
  • Chapter 13

    • The chapter opens on Comrade Ossipon, who is hanging out at the apartment of the weird little maniac named The Professor. The room is shabby and gross, just like the Professors clothing and general appearance.
    • The Professor is talking about a visit he recently made to Michaelis, who apparently knew nothing of Verloc's death. Apparently, Michaelis spends all his days sitting around in a nest of manuscripts, writing thought after thought without making any sense, since he has completely lost his ability to form logical connections.
    • The Professor sneers at Michaelis' idealistic belief that all the strong people in future society will dedicate themselves to caring for the weak.
    • The Professor thinks that the strong should devote themselves to exterminating the weak. He hates the "multitude" of mediocre people in the world, who for some reason seem to hold all the power: "First the great multitude of the weak must go, then the only relatively strong" (13.8).
    • Ossipon then asks what will remain after all this exterminating, and the Professor tells him, "I remain—if I am strong enough" (13.10). Again, this is typical psychopathy coming from the Professor: the belief that everyone in the world except him is mediocre, and the belief that his poverty is just a symptom of how stupid the world is, since all the mediocre people have so much more social power than him.
    • The Professor believes that he suffers from the oppression of people who aren't as great as himself: he sees the world as a bunch of leeches always trying to drain him. And yet he has no evidence at all to back up his deranged belief in his own greatness.
    • Ossipon asks the Professor to come drink with him, since he seems to be pretty desperate for company. The Professor is happy about the offer for free drinks, and he starts teasing Ossipon about all the women he's been with. He even asks melodramatically if a woman has ever killed herself for Ossipon. Ossipon gets really angry at this.
    • As soon as they're on a bus heading for the bar, the Professor loses his confidence while looking at the masses of people on the streets. He realizes that to regain his confidence, hell have to go sit in his room later in the day. Just as we saw in Chapter Four, the Professor has a very difficult time believing in his own greatness when he recognizes just how many people are swarming over the planet Earth, and just how many of these people have no clue who he is.
    • They sit down in the bar, where Ossipon says that Michaelis might not be so far off in his judgment, since humanity wants to live, and caring for the weak might be part of this.
    • The Professor insists that, "Mankind […] does not know what it wants" (13.24). Ossipon counters by saying that no matter how great the Professor thinks he is, he's still going to die someday, and the world will forget him as if he never existed.
    • The Professor simply retorts that Ossipon is a "humbug" or grouch (13.28). Nonetheless, Ossipon's words have had an effect on him. "The thought of a mankind as numerous as the sands of the seashore, as indestructible, as difficult to handle, oppresse[s] him" (13.29).
    • The Professor thinks of Verloc (supposedly) blowing himself up. This happened only a week earlier, and already people have stopped talking about it.
    • Ossipon, without thinking, pulls a folded newspaper out of his pocket. He glances at the final lines of a story, which read: "An impenetrable mystery seems destined to hang for ever over this act of madness or despair" (13.33).
    • Then he reads the headline, which mentions the "Suicide of Lady Passenger from a cross-Channel Boat" (13.35). Ossipon thinks about all the appointments he has with the various women in London who support him financially. But he can't go see any of them, because he can't stop thinking about Winnie, who is obviously the woman who has killed herself in the article. This explains why Ossipon was so rattled when the Professor asked him if a woman had ever killed herself for him.
    • Ossipon thinks over the story in the paper, which speaks about a woman in black who was seen wandering around the boat from England to France as though she were very sick.
    • A few crew members made her lie down on the deck while they left for five minutes. When they came back, she was gone. An hour later, "one of the steamers hands found a wedding ring left lying on the seat" (13.39). The date of her wedding was on it, which was June 24th, 1879. Knowing that she was married for seven years, we can deduce that this story has taken place in 1886.
    • The Professor has gotten restless at Ossipon's silence, so he gets up to leave. Ossipon tells him to stay, and asks him if he knows anything about madness and despair. The Professor replies that there is no such thing as madness or despair in the world anymore, since these are strong emotions, and the world is governed completely by limp, flavorless emotions.
    • He goes on to tell Ossipon that he (Ossipon) is mediocre, and that Verloc was mediocre, too. "Everybody is mediocre" (13.44). He also says that he's heard about the bit of money Ossipon has come into, and says that it hasn't made him any more intelligent. The Professor is obviously referring to Winnie's money, which Ossipon has been spending on booze.
    • Ossipon offers the Professor all the money he has. The Professor answers by saying that he's got a shipment of chemicals coming in that he can't pay for, so he'll send Ossipon a bill.
    • After the Professor leaves, Ossipon gets up to go, too. He feels completely alone in the world. He cannot face another woman ever again. "His revolutionary career, sustained by the sentiment and trustfulness of many women, [is] menaced by an impenetrable mystery" (13.54), which is the madness and despair that Winnie Verloc felt in her final moments.
    • Ossipon feels that he's become mentally ill, and walks with almost no feeling in his entire body.
    • Meanwhile, "the incorruptible Professor walk[s], too, averting his eyes from the odious multitude of mankind" (13.56).
    • His fantasy of being a superior, talented human being can no longer sustain itself in the face of humanity's sheer numbers. It's impossible to be as important as he thinks he is, because there are simply too many people for any individual to stand out in the world.
    • The final lines of the book read: "Nobody looked at him. He passed on unsuspected and deadly, like a pest in the street full of men" (13.56). In other words, the book doesn't deny that the Professor (with the bomb in his pocket) is still deadly.
    • Rather, the fact that he's deadly doesn't make him superhuman. At the end of the day, he's just a little pipsqueak who's going to die like everyone else.
    • The End. That's Conrad for you: good (and by "good" we mean "bleak as anything") to the last drop.