Take this The Human Factor quiz to find out which character from The Human Factor you are. Answer these quick questions to find out. Play it now!
Graham Green’s The Human Factor is a Spy novel that focuses heavily, as the title implies, on the costs of human spying, especially in psychology, as follows by the Maurice Castle agent from MI6 by reviewing his own motives and loyalties towards an Amoral Institute that may be harder than the people they allegedly fight.
A British-born agent Castle fell in love with a black woman and thus fell in love with regulations in the Apartheid era, during a long field op in South Africa, forbidding interracial relations. This woman, The Sara of the passage above, with the aid of a famous communist escaped South Africa and now lives in a quiet London suburb with Maurice and her son (His stepson). The very existence of Castle is undermined by a spiritual bankruptcy that is becoming clearer for Castle, as a study of a leak from his little department leads to unforeseeable effects.
The novel contains very little violence and nothing you can call action, instead of focusing on individual figures, from the complex Castle to true believer Percival to South African partisan un-regenerated Muller as well as on how they look and respond to a leak. Greene believes spy game is more mundane than the traditional Spy novels and movies would imply.
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The position of Castle is by definition dangerous as it is one of just three or four possible leaks and has a familiar link with the communist faction in South Africa, which was at the time a battleground for the Cold War powers by its white-left administration. He is well aware of the investigation, but he’s forced to act whatever the moral or legal ramifications of Percival’s actions when he realizes how far he can go to preserve the agency. Also, you must try to play this The Human Factor quiz.
Maurice Castle, 62 years old, works in a British Intelligence two-man subsection. Castle and his younger office partner Arthur Davis’ duties are to receive and deliver information from and to South Africa in which Castle was previously an agent. Castle encounters the new security chief, Colonel Daintry one day on the way to lunch. Though polite, Daintry requests Castle not to delete confidential papers but to launch his case.
Later, at Berkhamsted, Castle drives by train, feeling something nauseous. His Sarah wife says that Sam has measles for her young boy. The worry of the castle is slightly lessening. Sarah, a black woman he met in South Africa, and her son Sam are his most valued values in life. That weekend, Daintry and other security officials gathered for a pheasant shoot and a discussion of the security leak led up to the office of the Castle in Sir John Hargreaves’ country house, Daintry’s superior. On alcohol and cigars, Hargreaves decides to eliminate the shame of a public treason trial if the culminating culprit is revealed. To make this possible, Dr. Percival is invited to join them if recommendations for an undetectable poison are needed.
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In St James’s Street, Colonel Daintry held a 2-room apartment which he found through another firm member’s agency. During the war, MI6 utilized it as an appointment to interview recruits. The building was occupied by only three apartments by an old housekeeper who lives in a room somewhere outside view under the roof. There were three apartments. Daintry was above a restaurant on the first floor (the noise of hilarity kept him awake until the small hours when the last taxi ground away). A retired businessman who had been formerly associated with the rival SOE wartime services and a retired commander who had been fighting in the West Desert was over his head.
But the businessman, who was suffering from gout, used to cross the road up to the Carlton Club to be seen on the stairs. The general was too old now. Daintry wasn’t a cook and he generally saved for one meal by buying Fortnum cold chipolatas. Never had he loved clubs; Overton was only downstairs if he was hungry, an uncommon thing. He stared at his bedroom and his bathroom on a small courtyard, with a sundial and a statue. Few who walked St James Street recognized the existence of that court. It was a pretty inconspicuous flat and not unfit for a solitary person. (The paperback edition of Penguin p. 84-85)