After Leamas nearly kills a carful of children driving on a highway while lorries (trucks) speed nearby, the huge vehicles come to symbolize the impersonal forces that crush individuals in the modern world. As a spy, Leamas wants to see what he does as working to protect innocent people, like the carful of children, but he comes to realize that his work – whether it calls for him to speed on the highway, or to send his agents into harm’s way – often leads him to endanger these innocents. In the novel’s final sentence, as Leamas dies, the image he sees is of the carful of children passing by, while his own car is crushed between enormous trucks. At this moment, Leamas sees that he too is a sensitive human being, capable of being unfairly mowed down by forces larger than himself.
Lorries Quotes in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
He drove seventy kilometres in half an hour, weaving between the traffic, taking risks to beat the clock, when a small car, a Fiat probably, nosed its way out into the fast lane forty yards ahead of him. Leamas stamped on the brake, turning his headlights full on and sounding his horn, and by the grace of God he missed it; missed it by a fraction of a second. As he passed the car he saw out of the corner of his eye four children in the back, waving and laughing, and the stupid, frightened face of their father at the wheel. He drove on, cursing, and suddenly it happened; suddenly his hands were shaking feverishly, his face was burning, his heart palpitating wildly. He managed to pull off the road into a lay-by, scrambled out of the car, and stood breathing heavily, staring at the hurtling stream of giant lorries. He had a vision of the little car caught among them, pounded and smashed, until there was nothing left, nothing but the frenetic whine of klaxons and the blue lights flashing; and the bodies of the children, torn, like the murdered refugees on the road across the dunes.
Shielding his eyes he looked down at the foot of the wall and at last he managed to see her, lying still. For a moment he hesitated, then quite slowly he climbed back down the same rungs, until he was standing beside her. She was dead; her face was turned away, her black hair drawn across her cheek as if to protect her from the rain.
They seemed to hesitate before firing again; someone shouted an order, and still no one fired. Finally they shot him, two or three shots. He stood glaring round him like a blinded bull in the arena. As he fell, Leamas saw a small car smashed between great lorries, and the children waving cheerfully through the window.