The Secret Agent

by

Joseph Conrad

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Sir Ethelred Character Analysis

Sir Ethelred is a high-ranking politician, a secretary of state. He is a bulky man with drooping eyes. He grants the Assistant Commissioner freedom to circumvent Chief Inspector Heat in order to investigate the Greenwich bombing. Sir Ethelred is trying to get a controversial fisheries bill through Parliament and has recently been subject to protests targeting him as a socialist.

Sir Ethelred Quotes in The Secret Agent

The The Secret Agent quotes below are all either spoken by Sir Ethelred or refer to Sir Ethelred. 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 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 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:
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Sir Ethelred Character Timeline in The Secret Agent

The timeline below shows where the character Sir Ethelred appears in The Secret Agent. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
...permission for the Assistant Commissioner to enter. He is soon ushered into the presence of Sir Ethelred , a Secretary of State, a bulky, droopy-eyed, hawk-nosed man who immediately asks if this... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
The Assistant Commissioner tells Sir Ethelred that he can offer a different perspective from Chief Inspector Heat’s. For example, today’s incident... (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... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...his investigation. Therefore, the Assistant Commissioner wants a free hand to solve this case himself. Sir Ethelred grants it, telling the Commissioner to report back later tonight with his discoveries; Toodles will... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Sir Ethelred is curious about the Assistant Commissioner’s interest in the case, and the Commissioner replies that... (full context)
Chapter 10
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
...to Parliament, where he is met by Toodles. As Toodles leads the Assistant Commissioner to Sir Ethelred , the Assistant Commissioner talks about catching his “sprat”, which might be used to catch... (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... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
As Sir Ethelred dismisses the Assistant Commissioner, the latter confirms that, indeed, Verloc has a wife whom he... (full context)