The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

by

John Le Carré

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The Cold Symbol Analysis

The Cold Symbol Icon

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

The The Spy Who Came in From the Cold quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Cold. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold published in 2013.
Chapter 2 Quotes

"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.

Related Characters: Alec Leamas, Control
Related Symbols: The Cold, World War II
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

"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 . . ."

Related Characters: Karden (speaker), Alec Leamas, Hans-Dieter Mundt, Liz Gold
Related Symbols: The Cold
Page Number: 183-184
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Cold Symbol Timeline in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Cold appears in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: The Circus
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
Elites and Others Theme Icon
...service, Leamas meets with Control. Control is courteous and complains about banal topics like the cold and the secretaries. Control says it’s a shame that Riemeck was shot, and says that... (full context)
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
Control says he wants Leamas to “stay out in the cold a little longer,” and then begins to talk about the morality of spy work. He... (full context)
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Finally, Control gets to the point: he wants Leamas to stay “out in the cold” to help to take out Mundt. Leamas asks why, since they have no other agents... (full context)
Chapter 7: Kiever
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
...questions, Ashe asks Leamas what he does, and whether Leamas was “one of the mysterious cold warriors” when in Berlin. Leamas blushes and says he was “an office boy for the... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Third Day
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
...a pension as well, and would be able to “afford to come in from the cold.” (full context)