The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent Summary and Analysis of Chapter IX


Mr. Verloc returns from a 10-day trip to Europe in somewhat better spirits. At Mrs. Verloc’s behest, he begins taking Stevie with him out on walks where he talks with his Red Committee associates; the content of their talk puts Stevie into a highly excitable mood. Despite the ominousness of some of the changes in Stevie, Mrs. Verloc considers everything she sees within the familiar category of “excitement.” Worry for him, she talks with Mr. Verloc, and the two decide to send Stevie off to stay in a cottage with Michaelis.

Mr. Verloc is out of the house for most of the day on the day of the Greenwich Bomb Outrage. When he returns, Mrs. Verloc finds him looking haggard and sick, and tries to encourage him to take care of himself. He tells her that he has withdrawn all their money from the bank because they may have to leave soon. Mr. Vladimir arrives at the shop and takes Mr. Verloc out for a time to talk. Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Heat comes and speaks to Mrs. Verloc looking for information about the Greenwich Bomb Outrage, which he does not at first mention explicitly. Showing her the scrap of fabric from an overcoat with their address, he comes to the conclusion that the two men involved in the bombing were Mr. Verloc and Stevie. When Mr. Verloc comes back, he offers himself up to Chief Inspector Heat to be arrested, but Heat tells him that he should run away. Mr. Verloc admits that it was Stevie who had been blown up prematurely by the bomb – Mrs. Verloc overhears this in a state of shock.


Although we first hear about the Greenwich Bomb Outrage in Chapter 4 from Ossipon’s sharing a newspaper article with the Professor, it is only in the previous chapter (Chapter 8) that we learn rather jarringly that Mr. Verloc is not in fact dead; and in this chapter, Conrad’s narrator surprises us likewise with the full story of what happened with the botched terrorist attack. It is a key device of Conrad’s modernist narrative technique to not simply let the third-person omniscient narrator reveal events to the readers directly, but rather to complicate the matter of narrative perspective by filtering events, not only through particular characters’ consciousnesses but also through the different media from which they get their information.

In this chapter, we are given what seems to be the opposite of the sensationalistic and often factually inaccurate newspaper report that first represented the Bomb Outrage: Mr. Verloc promises and gives Inspector Heat a confession. Ironically, this confession to the policeman ends up taking the place of the more important confession he was to make – the confession to his wife, the sister of the man whom Mr. Verloc led to his death – while Mrs. Verloc actually overhears everything her husband admits to.