Essay on Critical: Murder and Mrs. Verloc

Submitted By Cmartin4704
Words: 693
Pages: 3

“Nothing moved in the parlour till Mrs Verloc raised her head slowly and looked at the clock with inquiring mistrust. She had become aware of a ticking sound in the room. It grew upon her ear, while she remembered clearly that the clock on the wall was silent, had no audible tick. What did it mean by beginning to tick so loudly all of a sudden? Its face indicated ten minutes to nine. Mrs Verloc cared nothing for time, and the ticking went on. She concluded it could not be the clock, and her sullen gaze moved along the walls, wavered, and became vague, while she strained her hearing to locate the sound. Tic, tic, tic” (221).

5. Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent operates under a heavily impressionistic narrative, a style supported by the omniscient third person point of view. In this style, the narration opens the reader to the inner dialogue and sensations of its main characters (and, occasionally, its not-so-main characters, in the cases of the Professor and Ossipon). However, Chapter XI includes arguably the most impressionistic scenes of the entire novel, including the passage above. Interestingly, this chapter details the murder of Mr. Verloc, juxtaposing several sensations of the characters with death as if to highlight the sensation of life itself. When Mrs. Verloc first murders Mr. Verloc, the above passage shows her first sensation. Her initial thought process is explained between the event of the murder and this passage, but this is the first physical reaction the reader sees from her. Albeit loud, this sensation is “vague” and “wavered,” making it seem altogether unreal. The clock takes on a hyperbolic sound; it’s loud – louder than it’s ever been – until it totally consumes the narration at the end of the paragraph. For a moment, the entire plot of the story is lost completely to the sensation of sound, as she searches in vain for the source of the ticking: “Tic, tic, tic.” She has a lapse of focus, wherein she almost directly follows Frued’s idea of a “screen memory” by replacing repulsion towards her horrific act with the sound of the clock ticking; she completely displaces her horror onto the clock, rather than onto the body directly at hand. This being the case, she greatly exaggerates the sensation of sound caused by the clock so that she is separated from this painful moment. By focusing on sensation rather than the event, her attempt to escape the reality of the situation becomes impressionistic because the reader sees the murder from Mrs. Verloc’s point of view only.
Indeed, the clock continues to occupy Mrs. Verloc’s imagination into the next chapter: “She seemed to have heard or read that clocks and watches always…