The Secret Agent

by

Joseph Conrad

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Stevie is Winnie’s younger brother. He lives with the Verlocs, and Winnie watches over him like a mother. Stevie has an unnamed mental disability and cannot live independently, though he can read and write and has held jobs occasionally. He is highly emotionally sensitive, especially when he hears stories of injustice and suffering (Stevie’s late father, ashamed of having a disabled son, was violent toward him when Stevie was a boy). Stevie lives a quiet, predictable life; his main hobby is drawing circles on pieces of paper. However, Stevie’s deep sympathy is coupled with rage in the face of injustice, something that even Winnie has never fully understood. This rage comes out especially in Stevie’s encounter with a cab driver who beats his horse. After Stevie’s and Winnie’s mother moves out, Stevie is depressed, so Verloc begins taking an interest in him, manipulatively teaching him to mistrust the police and preparing him to carry out the bombing of the Greenwich Observatory that Verloc has been plotting. Because Stevie trusts Verloc and has a burning desire to avenge the sufferings of the weak, he goes along with Verloc’s teaching and plotting. On his way to bomb the Observatory, however, Stevie stumbles and falls on the explosive, dying instantly.

Stevie Quotes in The Secret Agent

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

The timeline below shows where the character Stevie 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
...goes out one 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... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...lodging-house, and she moved into their house in the less fashionable Soho neighborhood. Winnie’s brother Stevie, a delicate boy with a mental disability, joined the household too. Stevie was always a... (full context)
Chapter 2
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Winnie leaves Verloc alone. As she prepares supper, she tells Stevie, who’s been sweeping and dusting the house, to wash up for the meal. Stevie always... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
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 house. Winnie’s father was ashamed... (full context)
Chapter 3
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...from Ossipon. Verloc takes this opportunity to open the kitchen door for some air, revealing Stevie sitting at the table, drawing circle after circle. Ossipon admires the “degenerate’s” drawings. (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...socialist topics. Citing a writer named Lombroso, he confidently tells Verloc that the shape of Stevie’s ears is a clear marker of “degeneracy.” Verloc blushes faintly at the mention of science;... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
As Stevie heads off to bed, he overhears Yundt talking about the branding of criminals, and he... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...emotional manipulation of the masses matters greatly. Yundt describes current economic conditions as “cannibalistic,” causing Stevie, out of sight, to gulp and sink to the floor. Soon after, Verloc’s guests say... (full context)
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...to being watched by the police. Before heading upstairs, Verloc is surprised to see that Stevie is still up. Watching his brother-in-law pacing and talking to himself in the kitchen, he... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Verloc wakes up Winnie to deal with Stevie. Then, while undressing, Verloc looks out the window at the “inhospitable” city, a dark and... (full context)
Chapter 8
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...how to dispose of her furniture, her only possessions. If she gives the furniture to Stevie, it would seem to weaken his position of complete dependence, so she leaves everything to... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
When it’s time for Winnie’s mother to leave Brett Street, Winnie and Stevie come along for the cab ride. The carriage is drawn by an ill horse, and... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Winnie’s mother’s tears had been genuine—she’d felt that she was sacrificing Winnie for Stevie’s sake. Though she doesn’t doubt Winnie’s loyalty to Stevie, she is also realistic, and she... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Winnie promises that she will come to visit her mother often, and so will Stevie; Winnie points out that his mother’s departure will be devastating for him. Winnie’s mother worries... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Stevie stares sadly at the thin, drooping horse with uneven ears. Suddenly, the cab driver pokes... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Waiting outside the charity house, Stevie’s indignation mounts; his tenderness toward others’ suffering is joined to an innocent rage. Even Winnie... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Deeply moral in his instincts, Stevie wants someone to be punished for the world’s cruelty toward poor people. He suggests to... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...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 that Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 9
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...is on his way to the country, and Comrade Ossipon, who made Winnie blush faintly. Stevie, she tells Verloc, moped a lot in his absence. Presently, when Verloc takes off his... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
In the kitchen, the charwoman, Mrs. Neale, is scrubbing the floor. Whenever Stevie comes near, she starts complaining about her poor children, since Stevie always gives her whatever... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Later that day, Winnie asks Verloc to take Stevie for a walk—he is moping too much. Verloc objects that Stevie would get lost, but... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
When Winnie brings this up, Verloc suggests that it might be time for Stevie to get out of town for a while—he could stay in Michaelis’s cottage. Michaelis has... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
While Stevie is in the country, Winnie spends more time alone. On the day of the Greenwich... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...they have a comfortable life. She looks around their cozy, respectable home, which only lacks Stevie at the moment. She also gives Verloc a lingering kiss on the forehead and reminds... (full context)
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
As Winnie clears the table, she calmly rejects Verloc’s suggestion of moving abroad—she doesn’t think Stevie could handle that. She tells Verloc that he’d have to go without her, but she... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
...out the label in his pocket. Winnie recognizes it—she’d written and placed the label inside Stevie’s coat. She explains that Heat can’t question Stevie because he’s in the country with Michaelis.... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
...staggers a little. Heat realizes that the details of the case have fallen into place: Stevie was the bomber, and Verloc was the “other man.” He tells Winnie that he thinks... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...really solved the crime. Though Winnie can’t see it, Heat shows Verloc the scrap of Stevie’s coat. (full context)
Chapter 10
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
...he discovered Verloc was eager to confess. Verloc quickly told him of Vladimir’s instigation and Stevie’s involvement. Michaelis wasn’t involved and probably still doesn’t know about it, though Stevie had been... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...Commissioner doesn’t believe that Verloc is a hardened criminal or that he ever intended for Stevie to die. The whole affair, he reflects, has the air of someone who committed suicide... (full context)
Chapter 11
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...the news to Winnie, so now Verloc doesn’t have to. He’d never even meant for Stevie to die—he hadn’t foreseen an accident like this. He’d expected that Stevie would get arrested,... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Why, Verloc wonders bitterly, did his wife sew Stevie’s address into his clothes? He decides not to reproach her about it. He goes up... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...eaten nothing all day, from the time he arrived at Michaelis’s this morning to claim Stevie. Now that the bombing and its aftermath are behind him, Verloc’s appetite returns forcefully. After... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...contemplates his inevitable imprisonment—perhaps he’ll move abroad after he’s released. If only Winnie hadn’t sewn Stevie’s address into his coat and gotten Verloc caught, then he would have had great success... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...to watch over it. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Winnie is sitting at the table in Stevie’s usual seat. Verloc wants to confide in his wife about the way that Vladimir has... (full context)
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
The novelty of confiding in Winnie pushes Stevie from Verloc’s mind. Because of this, Verloc is startled when he looks up and sees... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
But the nature of Stevie’s death stops Winnie’s tears. Her life has always revolved around Stevie. Images of her childhood... (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 to worry for him. She... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...tells Winnie. Anyway, she is at fault, too—she kept urging him to spend time with Stevie. In fact, she’s as much responsible as he is for Stevie’s death. Exhausted, he finally... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...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 one more... (full context)
Chapter 12
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...young woman with others dependent on her; Verloc was willing to support her mother and Stevie, so what else could she do? But he turned out to be “a devil.” (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
...or be a slave. From her ravings, Ossipon figures out that it was in fact Stevie, the “degenerate,” who was killed in the bombing. As Winnie clings to his legs snakelike,... (full context)
Weakness, Vulnerability, and Abuse Theme Icon
When Ossipon mentions the resemblance between Winnie and Stevie, Winnie finally breaks into helpless sobs. Ossipon encourages her to step farther away from the... (full context)