A tough, hard-drinking man of fifty, Alec Leamas has worked for the British secret service – the Circus – since World War Two. During his wartime service, he saw many innocent people killed, and… read analysis of Alec Leamas
A former member of the Nazi party, current member of the Abteilung, and secret British agent, Hans-Dieter Mundt is a cynical, cold-blooded killer and anti-Semite. Before the action of the novel, he worked as an… read analysis of Hans-Dieter Mundt
A trusting, sensitive, and intelligent Jewish woman in her early twenties, Liz Gold is a member of the Communist party. She becomes Leamas’s lover after meeting him at the library where they both work… read analysis of Liz Gold
The second-in-command at the Abteilung, Fiedler is a Jew and a true believer in the Communist cause. As a child, he fled the Nazis with his parents, but returned to join the Communist political movement… read analysis of Fiedler
The head of the British secret service, or “the Circus,” Control is a member of the upper class, whose polite and banal manner conceals his deep cynicism and manipulative intelligence. Control convinces Leamas, who… read analysis of Control
A former agent for the Circus, Smiley is retired when the novel begins. In 1959, before the action of the novel, Smiley worked on a case involving Mundt, who was then a spy in… read analysis of George Smiley
An agent in the Circus who worked on Mundt’s case with George Smiley in 1959, before the action of the novel, Peter Guillam works in a department called Satellite Four. Leamas says that he… read analysis of Peter Guillam
A low-level Communist spy working in London, Ashe makes contact with Leamas as soon as he gets out of prison, then introduces him to his superior, Sam Kiever, who, in turn, brings Leamas to… read analysis of Ashe
Karl Riemeck’s mistress, Elvira is suspected of having revealed that Riemeck was spying for the British to the East Germans, leading to his assassination by Mundt. Later, she is assassinated in West Berlin… read analysis of Elvira
A man who works at the Labor Exchange and sets Leamas up with a series of jobs, finally sending him to work at the Bayswater Library for Psychic Research so that he will meet Liz… read analysis of Mr. Pitt
The treasurer of Liz’s local Communist association, Hanby witnesses the altercation between Leamas and Ford. He talks to a man in spectacles (probably George Smiley) who tells him how spontaneously the fight occurred, and… read analysis of George Hanby
Ford the Grocer
The grocer in the working-class neighborhood where Leamas lives while working at the library. Ford refuses to let Leamas buy groceries on credit, because he’s heard that Leamas is an impoverished alcoholic. Leamas punches Ford and goes to jail, but Ford later gets paid off by the Circus.
An agent working Leamas in Berlin, De Jong is the first to make contact with Karl Riemeck.
A mid-level Communist spy working in London, Kiever spells out the details of the offer the Communists will make Leamas to defect, supplies him with a passport and luggage, and brings him to Holland for interrogation by Peters.
A Russian interrogator, Peters spends several days in Holland interrogating Leamas about his time in the Circus, then sends the report to the Abteilung. Once Leamas is revealed to be “wanted” in England, Peters brings Leamas to East Germany to be interrogated by Fiedler.
The boss at the library where Leamas and Liz work. Miss Crail detests Leamas.
A housewife and Branch Secretary in Leipzig who hosts Liz during her trip to that city.
An East German official who brings Liz from Leipzig to the Tribunal.
An agent who works in Personnel at the Circus, Fawley and Leamas dislike one another because Fawley is a polished member of the upper class and Leamas hates snobs.
A former Nazi, Karden is a condescending and formal man who leads Mundt’s defense in the Tribunal.
The President is a stern middle-aged woman (unnamed) who heads the three-person Tribunal summoned by the Praesidium to consider Fiedler’s report accusing Mundt of spying for the British.
The Prison Wardress
A brutal woman who recites party dogmas to justify killing. The Prison Wardress watches over Liz after she has testified to the East German Tribunal. Her bloodthirsty attitude shows Liz that the Communist side is not blameless.