An Analysis of a Passage from the Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

2 February 2017

This passage is an extract from the novel The Secret Agent, written in 1907 by Joseph Conrad. The novel explores themes of corruption, words vs reality, and also has an acute vision of character development. All of these elements surface within the passage and are shown through diction, imagery, setting, and structure. In passage chosen, Winnie and Stevie, a sister and her brother are in a cab drawn by a horse. Stevie is deeply disturbed by the driver whipping the horse, and jumps out of the horse because the driver refuses to stop the whipping.

The passage begins with Winnie being horribly placating in blaming the accident that has just happened on the horse pulling their cab, saying, “This isn’t a very good horse. ” We can see that she doesn’t truly believe that the accident was the horse’s fault, as she says this, “At last,” implying that she is only saying something to break the silence in which “time itself seemed to stand still. ” After Winnie breaks the silence, the driver begins to whip the horse again.

An Analysis of a Passage from the Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad Essay Example

Stevie is in a state of shock at first, shown by his “vacant mouth. ” He then begins to get out of this state, saying to the driver, “Don’t. ” He is not hesitant, but afraid, also shown by the author’s diction. Conrad writes that Stevie “ejaculate[s] earnestly. ” This, paired with the driver not hearing him and having had a, “vacant mouth,” insists that he is not at all hesitant about telling the driver to stop, but is shocked and somewhat scared.

The reader is reminded of the earlier implication that Stevie’s father used to beat Stevie and his sister Winnie in their childhood. This happens in the driver’s whipping of the horse, and also the apparent cruelty of the driver, since he doesn’t even stop when he sees how much it bothers Stevie. Stevie finally is sure to have caught his attention. He says twice more that the driver, “mustn’t whip. ” The driver considers what Stevie has said and then proceeds in whipping.

The driver even repeats the comment to himself under his breath before he continues, proving to the reader that he is deliberately not following Stevie’s order. In fact, he repeats, “in a thoughtful whisper. ” The reader can see through this choice of words that the driver is indeed considering Stevie’s words. The theme of corruption is alluded to in the driver’s continued whipping, as the author explains the driver’s motives. Conrad writes, “He did this, not because his soul was cruel and his heart evil, but because he had to earn his fare.

Conrad is explaining how the driver is not corrupted, but is calling attention to the theme as that is what Stevie is observing. In conclusion, even through the first two paragraphs of the passage, we can see that diction has a huge effect on the reader in his or her comprehension of the passage. The reader has also, even through only the first two paragraphs, seen points relevant to the main themes of the novel. It is truly amazing how many allusions and how much meaning can be drawn from so little of Conrad’s writing in The Secret Agent.

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