Funeral in Berlin

by Len Deighton
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In Funeral in Berlin, who is Dawlish?

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Dawlish is the boss of the protagonist, the un-named British secret agent. The protagonist gives the following introductory description of him:

He was around fifty, slim and meticulous like a well-bred boa constrictor. He moved with languid English grace across the room from his desk and stood staring out into the jungle of Charlotte Street (chapter 3)

The animal imagery used here to describe Dawlish is striking. The comparison to a snake suggests the dangerous streak in him - further accentuated by the reference to his surroundings as a 'jungle' - but also this portrayal emphasises his trim elegance, his 'grace'. If he is like a snake, it is a 'well-bred' one. In short, he is an intelligent and sophisticated man.

In their differences of rank and background, Dawlish appears as something of a foil, or deliberate contrast to the un-named protagonist; they play off each other, as reflected in their witty verbal exchanges. Yet essentially, he gets on well with the protagonist; he values his abilities. Dawlish is a strong, efficient, and likeable character. He is superior, but he is not a snob.

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