Working undercover as a spy is referred to throughout the novel as being “in the cold.” In this sense, the cold represents the danger, isolation, and emotional hardship of spy work. To “come in from the cold” means to retire as a spy, but also symbolizes the emotional relief (and renewed potential for human connection) that comes with that decision. When the novel refers to literal cold weather, this lends a physical dimension to the emotional experience of struggling to survive and remain human as a spy. (Also see the “Alienation and Connection” theme.)
The Cold Quotes in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
"I wondered whether you were tired. Burnt out." There was a long silence.
"That's up to you," Leamas said at last.
"We have to live without sympathy, don’t we? That's impossible of course. We act it to one another, all this hardness; but we aren't like that really, I mean. . . one can't be out in the cold all the time; one has to come in from the cold. . . d'you see what I mean?"
Leamas saw. He saw the long road outside Rotterdam, the long straight road beside the dunes, and the stream of refugees moving along it; saw the little aeroplane miles away, the procession stop and look towards it; and the plane coming in, nearly over the dunes; saw the chaos, the meaningless hell, as the bombs hit the road.
"Comrade Mundt took one precaution while the British, with Fiedler’s aid, planned his murder.
"He caused scrupulous enquiries to be made in London. He examined every tiny detail of that double life which Leamas led in Bayswater. He was looking, you see, for some human error in a scheme of almost superhuman subtlety. Somewhere, he thought, in Leamas' long sojourn in the wilderness, he would have to break faith with his oath of poverty, drunkenness, degeneracy, above all of solitude. He would need a companion, a mistress perhaps; he would long for the warmth of human contact, long to reveal a part of the other soul within his breast. Comrade Mundt was right you see. Leamas, that skilled, experienced operator, made a mistake so elementary, so human that . . ."