The Conversation

The Conversation Quotes and Analysis

I build all my own equipment. Thank you.

Harry Caul

At the convention, Harry says this to a salesman who is trying to get him to purchase surveillance equipment. With one quick dismissal, Harry says that he is the best in the business and doesn't need to buy anyone else's equipment. This quote shows Harry's cranky confidence as a surveillance expert. It also illustrates how socially cut off Harry is from people in his industry. While he is very respected and looked up to, he is an island.

You know that means we've been watching you. We have the tapes. They are perfectly safe. The Director was very anxious to hear them as soon as possible and you seemed to be, I don't know, disturbed. I couldn't take the chance that you might destroy our tapes. You understand, don't you, Mr. Caul? Our tapes have nothing to do with you. Why don't you come over now and bring the photographs? The Director's here and he's prepared to pay you in full.

Martin Stett

Martin delivers this line over the phone to Harry, letting him know that the director was able to procure the tapes from Meredith, who stole them from Harry's office while he slept. It is the first time that Martin reveals that they have been watching Harry, and Harry is disturbed to discover that he has been surveilled. Martin uses this phone call to establish dominance over Harry, to express that he and the director have the upper hand over Harry, and that Harry has no power in determining the fate of the tapes. While Harry takes his job very seriously, Martin wants to make sure that Harry just remains a pawn, a hired surveillance expert rather than a nosy detective.

There isn't all that much you ever let me in on, Harry. You won't show me anything. You keep it all to yourself. You know damn well you will.


Stan says this to Harry when Harry is becoming increasingly obsessed with the tapes, but refuses to share any of his findings about them or talk about them with Stan. While Harry wants to be very professional and straightforward, Stan wants to have a more companionable relationship as co-workers. He is disappointed to find Harry so tight-lipped and serious, and feels resentful that Harry won't share any of his thoughts with him. Harry's reticence is what leads Stan to go and work for Bernie Moran, who is more personable and friendly. This quote shows the major difference between Stan and Harry, and reveals further Harry's inability to form personal relationships.

There is no moment between human beings that I cannot record and there is no method that I cannot figure out. I could figure out any of Harry's schemes, right?

Bernie Moran

Bernie says this at the party in Harry's office as a way of announcing his expertise as Harry's main professional rival. While Bernie cannot figure out certain cases that Harry worked on, and asks him to tell him how he did it, he maintains an arrogant attitude. In this moment, he brags that he is able to figure out any of Harry's methods for surveillance. This line highlights the professional rivalry between the two men, and serves to contrast their personalities; while Bernie does not hesitate to praise himself, Harry never brags.

I used to live in New York. At first, I worked as a receptionist and then I got promoted to secretary and then I was promoted to gal-Friday and special assistant to the Boss. Then I married him. Do you live far from here? Harry?


While Meredith and Harry talk, apart from the party in Harry's office, Meredith tells Harry a little bit about her biography. She tells him that she worked her way up the corporate ladder, from receptionist to the wife of the boss. Here Meredith reveals that she is willing to use her seductive powers to get ahead. It also highlights the sexism at play in the corporate system; Meredith did not work her way up to become the boss, but to become the boss's wife. Her trajectory also foreshadows Ann's story; later, we learn that Ann is the director's wife.

I'm not afraid of death but I am afraid of murder.

Harry Caul

In his dream, Harry says this line half to Ann, as she disappears into the fog, and half to himself. Harry has just revealed that as a child he was very ill and wanted to die, and so he is not very afraid of death. He is, however, afraid of murder, and his obsession with the tapes has to do with his relentless fear that they will lead to the murder of Ann and Mark. It is unclear why Harry is less afraid of death than he is of murder, but we also know that the murder of the innocent people as a result of his surveillance work years earlier still haunts him to this day. Here he confides in the specter of Ann.

I always think that he was once somebody's baby boy...and he had a mother and a father who loved him. And now, there he is, half-dead on a park bench and where is his mother or his father or his uncles now? Anyway, that's what I always think.


Ann says this to Mark in the park when they come across an older homeless man lying on a park bench. She feels very sorry for the old man, and tells Mark that she always thinks about the family members of homeless people, and wonders where they are now. The quote stands out to Harry, because it shows that Ann is a compassionate and deeply feeling person. He listens to this particular part of the tape several times. When he lies down on the cot in the office with Meredith, we hear this line on the tape while we see Harry. In this moment, the thoughts about the homeless man appear to also apply to Harry—where are his parents? Harry was once somebody's baby boy, and now he is isolated and alone, just like the homeless man.

Amy: Does something special happen between us on your birthday?

Harry: Like what?

Amy: Something personal.

Harry: What?

Amy: Like, uhm, telling me about yourself. Your secrets?

Harry: I don't have any secrets.

Amy: I'm your secret. You do have secrets, Harry? I know you do. Sometimes you come over here and you don't tell me. Once I saw you up by the staircase, hiding and watching for a whole hour. You think you're gonna catch me at something, you know? I know when you come over. I can always tell. You have a certain way of opening up the door. You know, first the key goes in real quiet, and then the door comes open real fast, just like you think you're gonna catch me at something. Sometimes I even think you're listening to me when I'm talking on the telephone.

Amy & Harry

In this exchange, Amy questions Harry about his life. While she has been content to be his mistress in the past, waiting for him to arrive without warning at her apartment, she takes the opportunity of his birthday to question him more about his personal world. When she asks him about his personal life and his secrets, he becomes agitated. Amy realizes that she is his secret, and details that she knows that she watches her even when he doesn't come into the room. Amy has an intuitive sense of when Harry is there, and can feel his presence watching over her. Part of their erotic relationship is the close tabs that Harry keeps on her. Amy, however, wants to know more. Harry is surprised and upset to realize that even though he thinks that he has all the powers of surveillance, Amy has also been keeping tabs on him.

You see, I would be perfectly happy to have all my personal things burned up in a fire because I don't have anything personal. Nothing of value. No, nothing personal except my keys, you see, which I really would like to have the only copy of, Mrs. Evangelista.

Harry Caul

In this moment, Harry has called down to Mrs. Evangelista who works at the front desk at his apartment. After questioning her about the fact that mail has appeared in his apartment out of nowhere—meaning it had to have been brought in by someone who has an extra key—Harry assures her that his belongings are not important to him and he would be perfectly fine if all of his belongings disappeared. He insists to her that he has no attachments and nothing to hide, which shows us how committed Harry feels to his anonymous lifestyle as a surveillance expert.

Listen, if there's one sure-fire rule that I have learned in this business is that I don't know anything about human nature. I don't know anything about curiosity. That's not part of what I do. This is my business.


This line is rather ironic, because it shows Harry in a somewhat hypocritical light. While Stan wants to overtly speculate about the meaning of the conversation between Ann and Mark on the tapes, Harry insists that it is just a job and that it is unprofessional to get too curious or assume anything. However, the audience knows that Harry is very curious about the tapes and has already begun to make assumptions about their meaning. Harry scolds Stan about a relationship to the tapes that he is himself cultivating. Harry is deeply invested in the tapes, and wants badly to understand their meaning, but he callously dismisses Stan's flip interest.