The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

by

John Le Carré

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Spy Who Came in From the Cold can help.

World War II Symbol Analysis

World War II Symbol Icon

Although the novel describes a struggle between two Cold War-era intelligence agencies, it is a world shaped by the “hot,” or violent, war that was fought less than two decades before. Each of the characters is shaped by the violence experienced during this period. Leamas often recalls seeing the corpses of refugees, while Liz, who was only a child during the war, lost her father during it. Questions of how to move on after this enormous carnage, what lessons should be learned, and how another war can be prevented hang over all of the characters.

World War II 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 World War II. 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 12 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Alec Leamas
Related Symbols: Lorries, World War II
Page Number: 104-105
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

She had reservations about Germans, that was true. She knew, she had been told, that West Germany was militarist and revanchist, and that East Germany was democratic and peaceloving. But she doubted whether all the good Germans were on one side and all the bad ones on the other. And it was the bad ones who had killed her father. Perhaps that was why the Party had chosen her—as a generous act of reconciliation. Perhaps that was what Ashe had had in mind when he asked her all those questions. Of course—that was the explanation. She was suddenly filled with a feeling of warmth and gratitude towards the Party. They really were decent people and she was proud and thankful to belong.

Related Characters: Liz Gold (speaker), Ashe
Related Symbols: World War II
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

"But what about Fiedler—don't you feel anything for him?"
"This is a war," Leamas replied. "It's graphic and unpleasant because it's fought on a tiny scale, at close range; fought with a wastage of innocent life sometimes, I admit. But it's nothing, nothing at all besides other wars—the last or the next."
"Oh God," said Liz softly. "You don't understand. You don’t want to. You're trying to persuade yourself. It's far more terrible, what they are doing; to find the humanity in people, in me and whoever else they use, to turn it like a weapon in their hands, and use it to hurt and kill . . ."

Related Characters: Alec Leamas (speaker), Liz Gold (speaker), Fiedler
Related Symbols: World War II
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Spy Who Came in From the Cold LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold PDF

World War II Symbol Timeline in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The timeline below shows where the symbol World War II appears in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Checkpoint
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Elites and Others Theme Icon
...at the Berlin Wall, whose ugly design reminds him of a concentration camp seen during World War II . He thinks back on the moment, some months before, when he first discovered that... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Circus
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
Elites and Others Theme Icon
...detached. Leamas recalls images of chaos he saw during his service in the Netherlands during World War II . (full context)
Chapter 3: Decline
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
...at the Circus is surprised by this demotion, because although Leamas did good work during World War II , he failed in Berlin. Elsie from Accounting spreads the word that Leamas will not... (full context)
Chapter 4: Liz
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
...he knows Mr. Pitt, the man at the Labour Exchange, from the Circus during the World War II . At the library, he works for a woman named Miss Crail. His coworker is... (full context)
Chapter 8: Le Mirage
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
At the airport, Leamas is reminded of the impersonal experience of World War II . Kiever has given Leamas luggage, because passengers without luggage always attract attention. When Leamas... (full context)
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Elites and Others Theme Icon
Leamas describes his service during World War II . He was enlisted as a soldier when he heard that the special service was... (full context)
Chapter 12: East
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
...might have looked once they were killed, and remembering the bodies of murdered refugees during World War II . When he got back in the car, he drove slowly and missed his meeting.... (full context)
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
Elites and Others Theme Icon
...English, and Leamas remembers that Fiedler and his family fled the Nazis to Canada during World War II , but returned in 1946 to participate in building a Communist Germany. (full context)
Chapter 15: Come to the Ball
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
...occurs to her that perhaps she has been invited because her father was killed during World War II . This thought reassures her. The Party, she feels, wants her to travel to Germany... (full context)
Chapter 16: Arrest
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
...the door closes behind him without a sound. Leamas remembers that he was advised during World War II that “you’ve nearly always got a weapon” and he crushes a matchbox into sharp wooden... (full context)
Chapter 25: The Wall
Ideology and Morality Theme Icon
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
...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... (full context)