The Secret Agent

by

Joseph Conrad

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Chief Inspector Heat Character Analysis

Chief Inspector Heat is a detective in London’s Special Crimes Department; according to his job description, he’s an “expert in anarchist procedure.” He used to specialize in thieving, and he understood and respected professional thieves, whose instincts were connected to those of the police. By contrast, anarchism makes no sense to him, because it is inherently meaningless, and the process of catching anarchists has no rules. Heat has risen quickly through the professional ranks because he’s good at telling his superiors, like the Assistant Commissioner, what they want to hear. He suspects Michaelis’s involvement in the Greenwich bombing, and since he dislikes anarchists, he doesn’t have any qualms about letting Michaelis take the fall for the incident (despite little direct evidence), in order to satisfy public opinion. Heat also has a casual relationship with Verloc, letting him run his shop of shady wares in exchange for occasional information about anarchist activities. His boss and rival, the Assistant Commissioner, believes that Heat’s duty to opposing anarchism dangerously outweighs his duty to the Special Crimes Department. On the night of the bombing, Heat questions Winnie and then Verloc about what happened, using a recovered scrap of Stevie’s overcoat to help him draw the conclusion that Stevie was the bomber and that Verloc was the mastermind behind the attack. He encourages Verloc to make a run for it, since Verloc might not get the light prison sentence he expects.

Chief Inspector Heat Quotes in The Secret Agent

The The Secret Agent quotes below are all either spoken by Chief Inspector Heat or refer to Chief Inspector Heat. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Secret Agent published in 1907.
Chapter 5 Quotes

[Inspector Heat] could understand the mind of a burglar, because, as a matter of fact, the mind and the instincts of a burglar are of the same kind as the mind and the instincts of a police officer. Both recognise the same conventions, and have a working knowledge of each other's methods and of the routine of their respective trades. […] Products of the same machine, one classed as useful and the other as noxious, they take the machine for granted in different ways, but with a seriousness essentially the same. The mind of Chief Inspector Heat was inaccessible to ideas of revolt. But his thieves were not rebels.

Related Characters: Chief Inspector Heat, The Professor
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

The Chief Inspector lost himself suddenly in a discreet reflective mood; and the Assistant Commissioner repressed a smile at the fleeting thought that the reputation of Chief Inspector Heat might possibly have been made in a great part by the Secret Agent Verloc.

"In a more general way of being of use, all our men of the Special Crimes section on duty […] have orders to take careful notice of anybody they may see with him. He meets the new arrivals frequently, and afterwards keeps track of them. […] When I want an address in a hurry, I can always get it from him. Of course, I know how to manage our relations. I haven't seen him to speak to three times in the last two years. I drop him a line, unsigned, and he answers me in the same way at my private address."

Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

It was obviously unreasonable, the mere cry of exaggerated grief. He threw over it the mantle of his marital indulgence. The mind of Mr Verloc lacked profundity. Under the mistaken impression that the value of individuals consists in what they are in themselves, he could not possibly comprehend the value of Stevie in the eyes of Mrs Verloc. She was taking it confoundedly hard, he thought to himself. It was all the fault of that damned Heat. What did he want to upset the woman for? But she mustn't be allowed, for her own good, to carry on so till she got quite beside herself.

Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chief Inspector Heat Character Timeline in The Secret Agent

The timeline below shows where the character Chief Inspector Heat appears in The Secret Agent. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
...be moved. As he cuts through an alley, he is suddenly met by Chief Inspector Heat of the Special Crimes Department, a man with a drooping a mustache, an overcoat, and... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Chief Inspector Heat, a so-called “expert in anarchist procedure,” has had a difficult day. A week ago, he... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
During his investigation that morning, Chief Inspector Heat had been shocked, nearly sickened, by the appearance of the terrorist’s remains. Though the terrorist... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
It was under these circumstances that Chief Inspector Heat had come upon The Professor. He hadn’t been thinking about anarchists at the time. Heat... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Caught off guard, Chief Inspector Heat tells The Professor that he is not presently wanted for a crime, and that when... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Right now, Chief Inspector Heat’s biggest problem is dealing with his superior, the Assistant Commissioner, who tells him that the... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
...so burdened by the pressures of public opinion. At the moment, he doubts Chief Inspector Heat’s informant, the old woman who saw two men emerge from the underground; they hailed from... (full context)
Chapter 6
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
With all this in mind, the Assistant Commissioner tells Heat that it will be important to gather sufficient evidence against Michaelis. Heat is confident that... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
The Assistant Commissioner questions Chief Inspector Heat about Michaelis’s doings, though he’s perfectly aware of them himself. Michaelis has retired to the... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
The Assistant Commissioner wants to know why, if Heat is so convinced about Michaelis, he didn’t seek Michaelis’s arrest before coming into this meeting;... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Under the previous ambassador, Heat even met Verloc and acted on intelligence that Verloc passed along. Since then, Heat has... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Though Heat insists that he must do his work as he sees fit, the Assistant Commissioner is... (full context)
Chapter 7
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
...Assistant Commissioner tells Sir Ethelred that he can offer a different perspective from Chief Inspector Heat’s. For example, today’s incident doesn’t fit the profile of a typical anarchist attack. He succinctly... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
In closing, the Assistant Commissioner tells Sir Ethelred that he thinks Inspector Heat ought to be replaced because of his use of the secret agent for information. Such... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...someone deaf and mute. In any case, the Assistant Commissioner intends to go over Inspector Heat’s head to solve the mystery. He believes that Heat’s sense of duty—particularly his determination to... (full context)
Chapter 9
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
...bell again and goes to meet the customer, whom she vaguely recognizes: it’s Chief Inspector Heat. Heat had walked most of the way home before deciding to double back and ask... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
As Winnie idly rummages around the shop, Chief Inspector Heat introduces himself and questions Winnie about Verloc’s whereabouts. From Winnie’s description of Verloc’s present companion,... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Chief Inspector Heat tells Winnie that he’s here to speak to Verloc about a stolen overcoat. Mindful of... (full context)
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Heat shows Winnie the coat scrap. Instantly recognizing it, she staggers a little. Heat realizes that... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Ignoring Winnie, Verloc asks what Inspector Heat is doing there. He and Heat step into the parlor and shut the door, whereupon... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Chief Inspector Heat encourages Verloc to get away, and that he doesn’t think the Department will pursue the... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Verloc tells Heat that he plans to make a full confession. Heat reflects on what this will mean:... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Inspector Heat asks what drove Verloc to get involved with such a plot. In his explanation, Verloc... (full context)
Chapter 11
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
After Chief Inspector Heat leaves, Verloc paces around the house, feeling sympathy for his bereaved wife. As an upside,... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...come to the boy.” Winnie shudders in response and says nothing. Verloc says that Inspector Heat shouldn’t have upset Winnie with his harsh words; Verloc had spent hours trying to think... (full context)
Chapter 12
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
...doesn’t believe that Verloc would have told her his plans). She explains that Chief Inspector Heat came, and that she overheard that they had to “gather him up with a shovel.”... (full context)