London symbolizes the inhospitality and profound alienation that Conrad implies is characteristic of modern life. Its drab physical environment mirrors the loneliness, malaise, and sometimes overt hostility that people experience in industrialized society. In the novel, London is most often described as dark, muddy, rain-soaked, and bleak; it’s an invariable landscape of brick and stone. The city’s misty gloom tends to envelop people as they go about their lives, blurring their identities and thereby separating people from one another. This represents the idea that modern life, particularly in urban environments, is inherently isolating and largely devoid of meaningful experiences or interpersonal connections. Sometimes, London’s murky atmosphere is also portrayed as a home in which dangerous “foreign fish” can swim, an image reflecting Victorian anxieties about foreign-born political dissidents.
London Quotes in The Secret Agent
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.
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[.]
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.