The Secret Agent

by

Joseph Conrad

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Secret Agent can help.

Mr. Vladimir Character Analysis

Vladimir is the First Secretary of the Embassy of an unnamed European country. He is a young man with a reputation for wit. Vladimir accuses Verloc of being lazy and insufficiently useful to the Embassy. Although Vladimir doesn’t seem to have a good understanding of socialist or anarchist views, he orders Verloc to carry out a series of terrorist attacks in order to turn public opinion against revolutionary sentiments in British society. He tells Verloc to attack the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, since an attack on “science,” specifically astronomy, won’t be mistaken for simple class-based grievance. Thoughts of Vladimir haunt Verloc throughout the story. Vladimir is also part of Michaelis’s patroness’s social circle, and he encounters the Assistant Commissioner there at the end of the story. The Assistant Commissioner warns Vladimir that the police will begin to crack down on foreign meddling.

Mr. Vladimir Quotes in The Secret Agent

The The Secret Agent quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Vladimir or refer to Mr. Vladimir. 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 2 Quotes

England lags. This country is absurd with its sentimental regard for individual liberty. […] England must be brought into line. The imbecile bourgeoisie of this country make themselves the accomplices of the very people whose aim is to drive them out of their houses to starve in ditches. And they have the political power still, if they only had the sense to use it for their preservation. I suppose you agree that the middle classes are stupid? […] What they want just now is a jolly good scare. This is the psychological moment to set your friends to work.

Related Characters: Mr. Vladimir (speaker), Mr. Adolf Verloc
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

And Mr Vladimir developed his idea from on high, with scorn and condescension, displaying at the same time an amount of ignorance as to the real aims, thoughts, and methods of the revolutionary world which filled the silent Mr Verloc with inward consternation. He confounded causes with effects more than was excusable; the most distinguished propagandists with impulsive bomb throwers; assumed organisation where in the nature of things it could not exist; spoke of the social revolutionary party one moment as of a perfectly disciplined army, where the word of chiefs was supreme, and at another as if it had been the loosest association of desperate brigands that ever camped in a mountain gorge.

Related Characters: Mr. Vladimir, Mr. Adolf Verloc
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion, or bribes. Moreover, I am a civilised man. I would never dream of directing you to organise a mere butchery, even if I expected the best results from it. But I wouldn't expect from a butchery the result I want. Murder is always with us. It is almost an institution. The demonstration must be against learning—science. […] The attack must have all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy.

Related Characters: Mr. Vladimir (speaker), Mr. Adolf Verloc
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Secret Agent LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Secret Agent PDF

Mr. Vladimir Character Timeline in The Secret Agent

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Vladimir appears in The Secret Agent. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Wurmt decides that Verloc had better see Mr. Vladimir. He steps out, leaving Verloc sweating. Soon Verloc is led by a servant into a... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
...and now in London. (He is a British-born subject, but his father was French.) Mr. Vladimir says that Verloc hasn’t made good use of his position; the Embassy isn’t a philanthropic... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Mr. Vladimir says that Verloc’s title is “agent provocateur,” but that he hasn’t done anything “provocative” for... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
England, Mr. Vladimir tells Verloc, is far too wedded to ideals of individual liberty. The middle classes must... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Mr. Vladimir says they must attack today’s middle class “fetish,” which is neither the monarchy nor religion—it... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Mr. Vladimir proposes attacking astronomy, because this would not be mistaken as a mere class grievance. Besides,... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Verloc points out that such an attack will cost money, but Mr. Vladimir is adamant that Verloc will only be paid his usual fee until he’s able to... (full context)
Chapter 3
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...of “degeneracy.” Verloc blushes faintly at the mention of science; it reminds him of Mr. Vladimir. Meanwhile, Yundt picks a fight with Ossipon, arguing about the status of criminals in society... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
As Verloc locks the door behind his friends, he feels dissatisfied. Compared to Mr. Vladimir, they all seem hopelessly useless and lazy, like himself. He knows that Yundt is cared... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...and stone. The view matches his foreboding. For a moment, he thinks he sees Mr. Vladimir’s face reflected there. Winnie returns and urges him to come to bed. Dreading insomnia, Verloc... (full context)
Chapter 9
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...drove Verloc to get involved with such a plot. In his explanation, Verloc calls Mr. Vladimir a “Hyperborean swine.” Heat leaves, and the shop bell startles Winnie from where she’s been... (full context)
Chapter 10
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
...talks about catching his “sprat”, which might be used to catch a bigger fish (Mr. Vladimir) in turn. When the Assistant Commissioner is seated in front of Sir Ethelred’s desk, he... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
The Assistant Commissioner continues filling in Sir Ethelred on Mr. Vladimir. Both men think the whole situation sounds far-fetched, but Verloc evidently took it seriously and... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...suspicion, he has been cleared. Then, the lady introduces him to a figure seated nearby—Mr. Vladimir. The patroness explains that, in light of today’s bombing, Vladimir has been frightening her with... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
After Mr. Vladimir leaves, the Assistant Commissioner hurries to intercept him. When Vladimir sees no cabs available, they... (full context)
Chapter 11
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...in Stevie’s usual seat. Verloc wants to confide in his wife about the way that Vladimir has haunted him over the past weeks until he was forced to take action. Finally,... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Verloc continues his rant. He resents Vladimir toying with him—many high-profile people owe their lives to him. He’s risked his life disrupting... (full context)