The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

by

John Le Carré

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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As they drive through the night, Liz asks Leamas what her part was in the operation. Leamas says that Fiedler was too powerful to be taken down by Mundt alone. London saw that Fiedler needed to be discredited entirely, not just killed, to save Mundt’s position. Still driving, Leamas tries to overtake a lorry and then must brake hard to avoid a crash. He continues, saying that he was prepared to become an alcoholic wreck and punch Ford to kill Mundt, which is what he thought the mission was.
Leamas fails to answer Liz’s question. He is drained and devastated by the experience he just had and can only think about the stunning revelation he has come to about the true nature of his mission. At this moment, he nearly crashes into another lorry, an image that recalls Leamas’s desperate feeling that he is being crushed by forces more powerful than himself.
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Liz asks Leamas if he also made love to her for the mission. He says he did not. He goes on to say that it was his job to make them think what was actually true: that Mundt was a British spy. Then, once his plot was uncovered, Mundt would be safe. Liz asks how they could have known that she and Leamas would fall for one another. Leamas says it didn’t matter. The Circus had a man in the Labor Exchange, Pitt, set him up to work at the library with her, because they knew she was a Communist and would accept the invitation to Germany. Then, even if they did not have a relationship, Mundt’s defense would have been able to make it look as if they had been involved, especially because Smiley went to call on Liz. Liz says she feels dirty and used.
Leamas believed that by connecting with Liz, he was potentially placing the mission in danger, as he believed Karl Riemeck had done. Instead, his love affair with Liz was another part of the mission that he did not know was planned, but which he executed nonetheless. Leamas had thought that he was playing a role, but the Circus was counting on him to fail to play that role at certain moments – by establishing a relationship with Liz and by confessing to try to save Fiedler – in order to fulfill their true plan.
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Liz asks Leamas why she is being released from the prison. She says she is a risk now, if she goes back to England, because she knows so much and is a Party member. Leamas says that he imagines Mundt will secure his position by blaming their escape on someone else. Liz asks if he really doesn’t care that Fiedler and other innocent people will be killed. Leamas says it makes him sick, but all that matters to spy agencies is success. Liz says Leamas is trying to convince himself not to feel guilty for getting Fiedler—who was a good man—executed. Leamas gets angry and says that the Communists usually find it justifiable to sacrifice individuals for the good of the collective. He says she is right, that Mundt must have promised the British to get her out, but of course did not care whether she lived or died.
Liz intuits that it is strange for the Circus to ask Mundt to help her to survive and return to England, given how much she now knows about the British secret service’s methods. Leamas, meanwhile, is in too much shock from the upending of his understanding about the last few months of his life to process what is happening now. He clings to the belief that Communists are just as bad, or worse, than those he works with, despite having learned that the man he reviles most is working on the “good” side. He admits, however, that Mundt certainly views Liz’s life as of no importance.
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Liz objects to the way the spy services used her love for Leamas, saying that this amounts to turning the humanity in people into a weapon. Leamas says that this is just the way spies work, and that their goal is to protect civilians. Liz insists that the spies are worse than everyone else. Leamas says that he hates the deceit and sacrifice of innocents that come with spy work, but what they have gone through is insignificant, because the whole world is full of people killing one another both in wars like World War II and in genocides. Liz remembers the Prison Wardress saying that they are in “a prison for those who slow down the march” towards a Communist society.
In the final reckoning, Liz does not believe that individuals should be sacrificed or abused in the name of creating a better or safer society, although she is a Communist and this is allowed for by Communist ideology. Leamas, on the other hand, sees his own individual sacrifices as helping to avoid even larger numbers of casualties by those who follow ideologies to the letter. He hates that Liz is involved in this dirty fight, but still clings to the belief that his work is somehow making the world a better place.
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Leamas sees a man on the road and picks him up. The man instructs them as they drive. He says he will show them where to climb over the Berlin Wall. Leamas, he says, should go first, then pull Liz up after him. They will only have ninety seconds, and they must climb over at a specific moment. The man tells Leamas to drive in a series of convoluted directions. When they arrive, the man tells them that the barbed wire is cut in the place where they should climb. Leamas tells the man not to drive the car away until they’re over, but once they are out of the car the man immediately drives away.
Leamas was told by Mundt to pick up this man. But while the man guides them to the Wall, he also seeks to confuse and alarm Leamas. Leamas is already traumatized by having seen Karl Riemeck shot as he tried to cross from the Eastern to the Western side of Berlin. Mundt has likely asked the man guiding Leamas to do this deliberately, so that Leamas feels unsure what is in his control and what will be decided for him by powerful outside forces.
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