Secrecy in the Verloc Household in Conrad’s “The Secret Agent”

The novel by Joseph Conrad presents the reader with an artful game of contrasts. The primary plot is tightly related to the global wave of terror wreaking havoc in 19th-century Europe. However, in its global background, the personal tragedy of the Verloc family is naturally woven into the story. As implied by the title of the novel, the atmosphere of secrecy permeates all aspects of the protagonist’s life. Nevertheless, while it is an inherent feature of his underground activities, secrets have a damaging impact on the Verlocs. The protagonist engages in dangerous activities unbeknownst to his caring wife, who provides care for her mentally disabled brother.

As Winnie is unaware of her husband’s plans, she pushes him to become closer with Stevie, not realizing the repercussions. As a result, an innocent person becomes the victim of secrets and intrigues to which he is in no way related. This plot is intertwined with the image of dark, newly urbanized London, portrayed by Conrad from its poor and miserable side. Such a development may be seen as the author’s attempt at exposing the issues of the New Liberal State. Evidently, Verloc would not have felt prompted to pursue dangerous activities had he and his family been content with their lives. For the main character, underground operations become a matter of survival in a hostile environment, which, however, entails serious collateral damage. Furthermore, the very emergence of anarchist terrorism may be seen as a response to the perceived failure of the contemporary socioeconomic policies of the state.

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