The Secret Agent

by

Joseph Conrad

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Mrs. Winnie Verloc Character Analysis

Winnie is Verloc’s young wife. She married Verloc seven years ago (even though she’d loved another man more), because Verloc was willing to support Winnie’s dependents, her mother and her beloved brother Stevie. Besides helping the two of them, Winnie runs the Verloc household and assists with her husband’s shop. She is passionately protective of Stevie, though her everyday temperament is so undemonstrative that nobody would guess how angry she gets when Stevie is threatened or hurt. After Winnie’s mother moves out of the house, Winnie encourages Verloc to take more of an interest in Stevie and feels triumphant when the two begin taking frequent walks together; she thinks that they look almost like father and son. However, after she learns that Verloc is responsible for Stevie’s death in the bombing, she is shaken from her typical reserve and, in the midst of Verloc’s self-pitying rantings, stabs him to death in a furious passion. Fearing that she’ll be hung for the murder, she flees the house with the plan to commit suicide, and she happens to stumble into Comrade Ossipon. Ossipon and Winnie have always been attracted to each other, so Winnie is able to persuades him to help her escape to France—but when Ossipon learns that she killed Verloc, he jumps off the train at the last second. Seeing no way out, Winnie commits suicide by jumping into the English Channel.

Mrs. Winnie Verloc Quotes in The Secret Agent

The The Secret Agent quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Winnie Verloc or refer to Mrs. Winnie Verloc. 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

Winnie after the death of her father found considerable consolation in the feeling that she need no longer tremble for poor Stevie. She could not bear to see the boy hurt. It maddened her. As a little girl she had often faced with blazing eyes the irascible licensed victualler in defence of her brother. Nothing now in Mrs Verloc's appearance could lead one to suppose that she was capable of a passionate demonstration.

Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

"I had to take the carving knife from the boy," Mrs Verloc continued, a little sleepily now. "He was shouting and stamping and sobbing. He can't stand the notion of any cruelty. He would have stuck that officer like a pig if he had seen him then. It's true, too! Some people don't deserve much mercy." Mrs Verloc's voice ceased, and the expression of her motionless eyes became more and more contemplative and veiled during the long pause. "Comfortable, dear?" she asked in a faint, faraway voice. "Shall I put out the light now?"

Related Characters: Mrs. Winnie Verloc (speaker), Mr. Adolf Verloc, Stevie
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

There is a peculiar stupidity and feebleness in the conduct of this affair which gives me excellent hopes of getting behind it and finding there something else than an individual freak of fanaticism. For it is a planned thing, undoubtedly. The actual perpetrator seems to have been led by the hand to the spot, and then abandoned hurriedly to his own devices. The inference is that he was imported from abroad for the purpose of committing this outrage. At the same time one is forced to the conclusion that he did not know enough English to ask his way, unless one were to accept the fantastic theory that he was a deaf mute. […] But an extraordinary little fact remains: the address on his clothing discovered by the merest accident, too.

Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

On the box, Stevie shut his vacant mouth first, in order to ejaculate earnestly: "Don't."

The driver, holding high the reins twisted around the hook, took no notice. Perhaps he had not heard. Stevie's breast heaved. […]

"You mustn’t," stammered out Stevie violently. "It hurts."

"Mustn't whip," queried the other in a thoughtful whisper, and immediately whipped. He did this, not because his soul was cruel and his heart evil, but because he had to earn his fare. […] But on the bridge there was a commotion. Stevie suddenly proceeded to get down from the box.

Related Characters: Stevie (speaker), Cab Driver (speaker), Mrs. Winnie Verloc, Winnie’s Mother, Mr. Adolf Verloc
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

The tears of that large female in a dark, dusty wig, and ancient silk dress festooned with dingy white cotton lace, were the tears of genuine distress. She had wept because she was heroic and unscrupulous and full of love for both her children. Girls frequently get sacrificed to the welfare of the boys. In this case she was sacrificing Winnie. By the suppression of truth she was slandering her. Of course, Winnie was independent, and need not care for the opinion of people that she would never see and who would never see her; whereas poor Stevie had nothing in the world he could call his own except his mother's heroism and unscrupulousness.

Related Characters: Stevie (speaker), Winnie’s Mother (speaker), Mrs. Winnie Verloc (speaker)
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

"Poor! Poor!" stammered out Stevie, pushing his hands deeper into his pockets with convulsive sympathy. He could say nothing; for the tenderness to all pain and all misery, the desire to make the horse happy and the cabman happy, had reached the point of a bizarre longing to take them to bed with him. And that, he knew, was impossible. For Stevie was not mad. It was, as it were, a symbolic longing; and at the same time it was very distinct, because springing from experience, the mother of wisdom. […] To be taken into a bed of compassion was the supreme remedy, with the only one disadvantage of being difficult of application on a large scale. And looking at the cabman, Stevie perceived this clearly, because he was reasonable.

Related Characters: Stevie (speaker), Cab Driver, Winnie’s Mother, Mrs. Winnie Verloc
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs Verloc, his only sister, guardian, and protector, could not pretend to such depths of insight. […] And she said placidly:

"Come along, Stevie. You can't help that."

The docile Stevie went along; but now he went along without pride, shamblingly, and muttering half words, and even words that would have been whole if they had not been made up of halves that did not belong to each other. It was as though he had been trying to fit all the words he could remember to his sentiments in order to get some sort of corresponding idea. And, as a matter of fact, he got it at last. He hung back to utter it at once. "Bad world for poor people."

Related Characters: Stevie (speaker), Mrs. Winnie Verloc (speaker), Cab Driver, Mr. Adolf Verloc
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

"You know you can trust me," Mr Verloc remarked […] with hoarse feeling.

Mrs Verloc turned slowly towards the cupboard, saying with deliberation:

"Oh yes. I can trust you."

And she went on with her methodical proceedings. She laid two plates, got the bread, the butter, going to and fro quietly between the table and the cupboard in the peace and silence of her home. On the point of taking out the jam, she reflected practically: "He will be feeling hungry, having been away all day," and she returned to the cupboard once more to get the cold beef. […] It was only when coming back, carving knife and fork in hand, that she spoke again.

"If I hadn't trusted you I wouldn't have married you."

Related Characters: Mr. Adolf Verloc (speaker), Mrs. Winnie Verloc (speaker), Stevie
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

She glanced all round the parlour, from the corner cupboard to the good fire in the grate. Ensconced cosily behind the shop of doubtful wares, with the mysteriously dim window, and its door suspiciously ajar in the obscure and narrow street, it was in all essentials of domestic propriety and domestic comfort a respectable home. […]

This was the boy's home too—the roof, the cupboard, the stoked grate. On this thought Mrs Verloc rose, and walking to the other end of the table, said in the fulness of her heart:

"And you are not tired of me."

Related Characters: Mr. Adolf Verloc (speaker), Mrs. Winnie Verloc (speaker), Stevie
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

"A genuine wife and a genuinely, respectably, marital relation. He told me that after his interview at the Embassy he would have thrown everything up, would have tried to sell his shop, and leave the country, only he felt certain that his wife would not even hear of going abroad. Nothing could be more characteristic of the respectable bond than that," went on, with a touch of grimness, the Assistant Commissioner […] "Yes, a genuine wife. And the victim was a genuine brother-in-law. From a certain point of view we are here in the presence of a domestic drama."

Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

Like a peripatetic philosopher, Mr Verloc, strolling along the streets of London, had modified Stevie's view of the police by conversations full of subtle reasonings. Never had a sage a more attentive and admiring disciple. The submission and worship were so apparent that Mr Verloc had come to feel something like a liking for the boy. In any case, he had not foreseen the swift bringing home of his connection. That his wife should hit upon the precaution of sewing the boy's address inside his overcoat was the last thing Mr Verloc would have thought of. […] That was what she meant when she said that he need not worry if he lost Stevie during their walks. She had assured him that the boy would turn up all right. Well, he had turned up with a vengeance!

Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

The lodger was Mr Verloc, indolent, and keeping late hours, sleepily jocular of a morning from under his bedclothes, but with gleams of infatuation in his heavy lidded eyes, and always with some money in his pockets. There was no sparkle of any kind on the lazy stream of his life. […] But his barque seemed a roomy craft, and his taciturn magnanimity accepted as a matter of course the presence of passengers.

Mrs Verloc pursued the visions of seven years' security for Stevie, loyally paid for on her part; of security growing into confidence, into a domestic feeling, stagnant and deep like a placid pool[.]

Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

She started forward at once, as if she were still a loyal woman bound to that man by an unbroken contract. Her right hand skimmed slightly the end of the table, and when she had passed on towards the sofa the carving knife had vanished without the slightest sound from the side of the dish. […] But Mr Verloc did not see that. He was lying on his back and staring upwards. He saw partly on the ceiling and partly on the wall the moving shadow of an arm with a clenched hand holding a carving knife. It flickered up and down. Its movements were leisurely. They were leisurely enough for Mr Verloc to recognise the limb and the weapon.

Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

The vast world created for the glory of man was only a vast blank to Mrs Verloc. She did not know which way to turn. Murderers had friends, relations, helpers—they had knowledge. She had nothing. She was the most lonely of murderers that ever struck a mortal blow. She was alone in London: and the whole town of marvels and mud, with its maze of streets and its mass of lights, was sunk in a hopeless night, rested at the bottom of a black abyss from which no unaided woman could hope to scramble out.

Related Characters: Mrs. Winnie Verloc, Mr. Adolf Verloc
Related Symbols: London
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mrs. Winnie Verloc Character Timeline in The Secret Agent

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Winnie Verloc appears in The Secret Agent. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...morning, leaving his small London shop in the care of his brother-in-law, Stevie. Verloc’s wife, Winnie, supervises Stevie in turn. The shop’s front window contains photos of dancing girls, odd packages,... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...from the back. He is a heavy-eyed man with a rumpled, rather lazy appearance. Sometimes Winnie answers the door instead. She is young, full-figured, and tidy, and she treats the awkward... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
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After Verloc and Winnie got married, Winnie’s mother gave up the lodging-house, and she moved into their house in... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Winnie leaves Verloc alone. As she prepares supper, she tells Stevie, who’s been sweeping and dusting... (full context)
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At dinner, Mr. Verloc is so thoughtfully silent that Winnie and her mother watch Stevie anxiously, not wanting him to disturb the master of the... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Verloc wakes up Winnie to deal with Stevie. Then, while undressing, Verloc looks out the window at the “inhospitable”... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...and can’t imagine what his motive might have been. He wonders what will become of Winnie, with Verloc apparently dead. The Professor describes the detonator he created for Verloc: it was... (full context)
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...bombing won’t be traced back to him. The Professor advises Ossipon to attach himself to Winnie Verloc, and then he leaves. The mechanical piano plays a gloomy Scottish air as Ossipon... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Drawing on her late husband’s social connections, Winnie’s mother has secured a place in an almshouse for innkeepers’ widows. She carried out this... (full context)
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When it’s time for Winnie’s mother to leave Brett Street, Winnie and Stevie come along for the cab ride. The... (full context)
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As the ride slowly progresses, Winnie tells her mother that she doesn’t believe she will be happy in her new home.... (full context)
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Winnie’s mother’s tears had been genuine—she’d felt that she was sacrificing Winnie for Stevie’s sake. Though... (full context)
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Winnie promises that she will come to visit her mother often, and so will Stevie; Winnie... (full context)
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...Stevie’s indignation mounts; his tenderness toward others’ suffering is joined to an innocent rage. Even Winnie has never understood this, never inquiring too deeply into things. She remains oblivious tonight, taking... (full context)
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...wants someone to be punished for the world’s cruelty toward poor people. He suggests to Winnie that the police could help, but Winnie tells him that isn’t the police’s job. Stevie... (full context)
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...Brett Street, Mr. Verloc is sitting at the shop counter, staring at a newspaper, when Winnie and Stevie get home. Later, over supper, Mr. Verloc is silent. Winnie had warned Stevie... (full context)
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Winnie is awake, lonely and troubled over her mother’s departure. Mr. Verloc silently wonders if Winnie’s... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Mr. Verloc returns from the Continent (mainland Europe) 10 days later, apparently unrefreshed, and Winnie chats with him over breakfast. In his absence, she cleaned the house, managed the shop,... (full context)
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...Today, finding no shillings in his pocket, Stevie bangs on the table in frustration, and Winnie has to comfort him. (full context)
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Later that day, Winnie asks Verloc to take Stevie for a walk—he is moping too much. Verloc objects that... (full context)
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When Winnie brings this up, Verloc suggests that it might be time for Stevie to get out... (full context)
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While Stevie is in the country, Winnie spends more time alone. On the day of the Greenwich bombing, Winnie hasn’t seen Verloc... (full context)
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Winnie questions Verloc about his day. He tells her that he’s been to the bank and... (full context)
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Although this suggestion is unexpected, Winnie attributes it to Verloc’s cold; he isn’t himself. She reminds him that they have a... (full context)
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As Winnie clears the table, she calmly rejects Verloc’s suggestion of moving abroad—she doesn’t think Stevie could... (full context)
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...the shop, he is pale. Staring at the overcoat thrown across the sofa, he tells Winnie that he’ll have to go out this evening. Winnie goes into the shop and finds... (full context)
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After a while, Winnie goes back into the house to see what’s keeping Verloc. He’s put on his coat,... (full context)
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After Verloc goes out, Winnie looks around the house again: it suddenly seems lonely, remote, and unsafe. She conceals the... (full context)
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As Winnie idly rummages around the shop, Chief Inspector Heat introduces himself and questions Winnie about Verloc’s... (full context)
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Chief Inspector Heat tells Winnie that he’s here to speak to Verloc about a stolen overcoat. Mindful of the wad... (full context)
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Heat shows Winnie the coat scrap. Instantly recognizing it, she staggers a little. Heat realizes that the details... (full context)
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Ignoring Winnie, Verloc asks what Inspector Heat is doing there. He and Heat step into the parlor... (full context)
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...tree root and that his remains had to be gathered with a shovel. Hearing this, Winnie stumbles away from the keyhole, covering her ears, her eyes wild. (full context)
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...explanation, Verloc calls Mr. Vladimir a “Hyperborean swine.” Heat leaves, and the shop bell startles Winnie from where she’s been sitting frozen at the counter, hands pressed to her face. Against... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...feeling sympathy for his bereaved wife. As an upside, Inspector Heat broke the news to Winnie, so now Verloc doesn’t have to. He’d never even meant for Stevie to die—he hadn’t... (full context)
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...the shop counter and offers, “I didn’t mean any harm to come to the boy.” Winnie shudders in response and says nothing. Verloc says that Inspector Heat shouldn’t have upset Winnie... (full context)
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...aftermath are behind him, Verloc’s appetite returns forcefully. After devouring his dinner, he again approaches Winnie, who hasn’t moved. He tells Winnie that it “can’t be helped” and encourages her to... (full context)
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Finally, Verloc tells Winnie to look at him and, in an unfeeling voice, Winnie says she never wants to... (full context)
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Verloc worries about what will become of his shop while he’s in prison, if Winnie is too distraught to watch over it. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Winnie is sitting at... (full context)
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...work for appreciated him, but now an “overbearing swine” has come along. He notices that Winnie is sitting up now. Verloc seethes over Vladimir’s disloyalty. He has been loyal to his... (full context)
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The novelty of confiding in Winnie pushes Stevie from Verloc’s mind. Because of this, Verloc is startled when he looks up... (full context)
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But the nature of Stevie’s death stops Winnie’s tears. Her life has always revolved around Stevie. Images of her childhood care and protection... (full context)
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Winnie keeps staring at the blank wall. Verloc, meanwhile, nourishes his revenge toward the Embassy. This... (full context)
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Winnie finally looks at Verloc, but he’s looking at the ground. He gives Winnie instructions about... (full context)
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When she hears Verloc mention escaping abroad, Winnie’s thoughts automatically turn to Stevie’s well-being, only to remember that there’s no longer any need... (full context)
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Upstairs, Winnie opens the window, and Verloc hears her getting dressed to leave the house. Winnie had... (full context)
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As Verloc makes himself comfortable, he mutters that he wishes he’d never seen Greenwich Park. Winnie pictures Stevie’s remains being gathered in the park, and her stony expression gives way to... (full context)
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Winnie takes a deep breath, feeling free at last. She no longer has any responsibilities or... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Winnie does not step beyond the front door. After the initial exhilaration, she now feels afraid.... (full context)
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Only a few minutes have passed since the stabbing. Winnie drags herself outside, where the damp air feels suffocating, and the atmosphere of the dark,... (full context)
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Moments later, Winnie finds unexpected help: Comrade Ossipon is peering at her through her black veil, believing she... (full context)
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Ossipon tells Winnie that he read about the bombing in the paper, and he decided to come and... (full context)
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Winnie says she always ignored Ossipon because she was a respectable wife, “till he made me... (full context)
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...ferocious statement; he doesn’t know what Verloc could have done, but he tries to comfort Winnie, assuring her that Verloc is dead now. Winnie, relieved and triumphant, grabs his arm and... (full context)
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Comrade Ossipon wonders how Winnie came to know about the bombing (he doesn’t believe that Verloc would have told her... (full context)
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Winnie begs Ossipon to flee with her to the Continent (mainland Europe). Ossipon, who feels that... (full context)
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...France at midnight; they can catch a train at 10:30. He starts making plans. Suddenly, Winnie remembers that she left the shop door open. When they approach the shop, she notices... (full context)
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...to his chest, from which a knife handle protrudes. Ossipon begins to retch. Just then Winnie rushes into the shop and clutches him, afraid that a passing constable has spotted her.... (full context)
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...gets the parlor light shut off, trying to accept what’s happened. He doesn’t believe that Winnie is capable of committing a crime like this alone, and so he still isn’t convinced... (full context)
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Ossipon imagines Winnie running into the street and sending the police after him as the murderer. He also... (full context)
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...Ossipon speaks to the guard to make sure they won’t be disturbed during the trip. Winnie softens, moved by Ossipon’s care for her. Ossipon, for his part, is “free from the... (full context)
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When Ossipon mentions the resemblance between Winnie and Stevie, Winnie finally breaks into helpless sobs. Ossipon encourages her to step farther away... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...been obsessed with these words and unable to date any other women since. He imagines Winnie on the boat in her veil, sickly and silent. When Winnie disappeared from the boat,... (full context)