Study Guide

The Hunt for Red October

by Tom Clancy

The Hunt for Red October Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Clancy’s first published novel, The Hunt for Red October, became a runaway best seller. Writing at a time of heightened Cold War tensions, Clancy touched a deep chord. Soviet submarine captain Mark Ramius is disillusioned by the communist system and the Soviet state. His wife, a former ballerina, died on an operating table at the hands of a drunken doctor who, because of his Communist Party connections, was not punished for his misdeed. The leading Soviet expert in submarine tactics, Ramius decides to defect to the United States.

A number of themes common to Clancy’s work appear in The Hunt for Red October. His knowledge of submarine technology and tactics carries the reader into an underwater world that, because of the technological framework, seems more fact than fiction. The Soviets do not want a nuclear war, but they might resort to war to recapture Ramius and his submarine, and power divorced from morality could well destroy the world. Ramius, driven by family feelings and moral considerations, transcends a system that has proved to be an evil failure.

On the other side is Jack Ryan, a consultant to the CIA. Because he is only a professor of history, he lacks the authority government office might give him; he is neither a high-ranking military figure nor a politician. Ryan is an Everyman who is willing and able to do what is necessary. Eventually, Ryan boards the Red October and is forced to kill a committed...

(The entire section is 413 words.)