The Secret Agent

A feminist reading of a passage from 'The Secret Agent' College

In pages 130-131 of ‘The Secret Agent’, Conrad’s description of the female protagonist Winnie Verloc provides the reader with an insight into the generally contemptuous attitude towards women of the Victorian era. In the extract, Conrad presents Winnie as somewhat politically and intellectually ignorant - a notion which was carried by the patriarchal society of the late 19th century. The passage also alludes to the expectations of women to fulfill their purpose as wives and mothers, as Winnie is said to be obeying an internal ‘instinct’, therefore suggesting that her sole motivation is to serve her husband and son. However, Conrad implies that rather than providing her with a sense of fulfillment, Mrs Verloc’s marital position only creates a void in her life. Winnie ultimately comes to represent the Victorian woman; in Conrad’s words, ‘equable’, ‘motionless’, ‘placid’ (p.130). The passage therefore allows the reader to consider the passive nature of women such as Mrs Verloc, and how they are influenced by societal expectations.

In the extract, Conrad reflects the parochial attitude of Victorian society as he addresses political participation in relation to gender, implying that women are politically inept and valueless in terms...

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