The Secret Agent

by

Joseph Conrad

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The Assistant Commissioner Character Analysis

The Assistant Commissioner is Chief Inspector Heat’s superior and rival in the Special Crimes Department. He doesn’t enjoy his job because he must depend on his subordinates to do most of the investigation, and case outcomes are sometimes pressured by public opinion. The Assistant Commissioner has a personal connection with Michaelis’s wealthy patroness, whom the Commissioner doesn’t want to offend—so when he hears from Chief Inspector Heat that Michaelis might be connected to the Greenwich bombing, he decides to take the investigation into his own hands, circumventing Heat. He even appeals to Sir Ethelred to try to get Heat fired. Relishing the chance to do detective work again, the Assistant Commissioner beats Inspector Heat to the Verlocs’ shop and gets a confession from Verloc. After reporting his success to Sir Ethelred, he goes to a party at the home of Michaelis’s patroness and happens to meet Mr. Vladimir there and warns him that this case will be the first step toward ridding the country of such foreign meddling.

The Assistant Commissioner Quotes in The Secret Agent

The The Secret Agent quotes below are all either spoken by The Assistant Commissioner or refer to The Assistant Commissioner. 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 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 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:

His descent into the street was like the descent into a slimy aquarium from which the water had been run off. A murky, gloomy dampness enveloped him. The walls of the houses were wet, the mud of the roadway glistened with an effect of phosphorescence, and when he emerged into the Strand out of a narrow street by the side of Charing Cross Station the genius of the locality assimilated him. He might have been but one more of the queer foreign fish that can be seen of an evening about there flitting round the dark corners.

Related Characters: The Assistant Commissioner
Related Symbols: London
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

And he himself had become unplaced. It would have been impossible for anybody to guess his occupation. […] A pleasurable feeling of independence possessed him when he heard the glass doors swing to behind his back with a sort of imperfect baffled thud. He advanced at once into an immensity of greasy slime and damp plaster interspersed with lamps, and enveloped, oppressed, penetrated, choked, and suffocated by the blackness of a wet London night[.]

Related Characters: The Assistant Commissioner
Related Symbols: London
Page Number: 119
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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The Assistant Commissioner Character Timeline in The Secret Agent

The timeline below shows where the character The Assistant Commissioner 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
...of the explosion that morning, he had displayed his surprise quite obviously in front of the Assistant Commissioner . (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 whereabouts of all known anarchists are presently accounted for.... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
The Assistant Commissioner considers this as he looks out at the miserable London rain. The Assistant Commissioner dislikes... (full context)
Chapter 6
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Michaelis’s patroness has connections with the Assistant Commissioner ’s wife. The patroness is a rich, influential old lady. She is an intelligent woman... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...lost the means of supporting himself. Someone, she decides, will need to look after him. The Assistant Commissioner , who was there at the time, hadn’t voiced an opinion, but he’d shared the... (full context)
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... (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... (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... (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 annoyed at having been kept in the dark, and at Heat’s persistent belief that... (full context)
Chapter 7
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
The Assistant Commissioner walks through the muddy streets, enters a public building, and speaks to Toodles, a young,... (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... (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... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
The Assistant Commissioner says that the existence of foreign spies in revolutionary groups throws a wrench in the... (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 it’s simply his impatience with... (full context)
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
A short time later, the Assistant Commissioner heads out into the dank, gloomy city. He catches a cab and is soon deposited... (full context)
Chapter 9
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...questions Winnie about Verloc’s whereabouts. From Winnie’s description of Verloc’s present companion, Heat knows it’s the Assistant Commissioner . He feels disgusted and believes that his superior is mishandling the case. He looks... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
...in the bombing plot. He further says that he knows Verloc has been talking with the Assistant Commissioner , but that Heat is the one who really solved the crime. Though Winnie can’t... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
...Professor’s bomb-making work, not to mention a departmental shake-up. Heat says that he wouldn’t trust the Assistant Commissioner , and that even if Verloc agrees to testify with the expectation of a lighter... (full context)
Chapter 10
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
The Assistant Commissioner travels to Parliament, where he is met by Toodles. As Toodles leads the Assistant Commissioner... (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... (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 genuinely seems to... (full context)
Anarchy, Terrorism, and Corruption Theme Icon
Foreigners and the Modern City Theme Icon
Loyalty, Conventionality, and Rebellion Theme Icon
As the Assistant Commissioner goes on his way, he feels a “crusading” impulse. After going home to change, he... (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 walk down the street... (full context)