Greene's work is set in the espionage circles of Cold War Europe. The primary struggles of Castle and his life are ones in which the Cold War is always in the background. One of the major themes in the novel is how "the good guy" is difficult to identify in the midst of political and economic ideologies. Such pragmatic decisions don't involve a "good guy," and rather invoke different shades of "bad." It is here where the discussion of apartheid exists. The fact that the Uncle Remus papers in the novel is a plan for collusion amongst the American, British, and South African governments in the event of a race war in which Apartheid is challenged represents this. The novel is one where the Western hypocrisy involving Apartheid is present. While claiming to stand against oppression and suppression of individuals around the world, Western businesses and government still operated with freedom, and without relative conscience, with the apartheid government of South Africa. Greene writes as much in an introduction to a reprinting of the novel, saying that the West was as much a complicit partner in Apartheid as the South African Government:
They [economic and political powers representing the West] simply could not let South Africa succumb to black power and Communism.
It is here where Cold War themes and progressive concerns about Apartheid converge in the work.