Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340

The primary character in The Human Factor is Maurice Castle, an aging agent with the British intelligence service who is leaking information about South Africa to the Communists. Castle is leaking information out of gratitude to his friend, Carson, a Marxist who rescued Castle's eventual wife from prison. His choice...

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The primary character in The Human Factor is Maurice Castle, an aging agent with the British intelligence service who is leaking information about South Africa to the Communists. Castle is leaking information out of gratitude to his friend, Carson, a Marxist who rescued Castle's eventual wife from prison. His choice to leak this information leads to a chain of events, beginning with the killing of his coworker, who is wrongly believed to be the double agent.

The supporting characters you may include in an analysis of The Human Factor are Sarah Castle, Arthur Davis, Dr. Emmanuel Percival, Cornelius Muller, Colonel Daintry, and Sir John Hargreaves. Sarah Castle is Maurice Castle's wife. She met Maurice Castle when he was a field agent in South Africa, and when Arthur Davis dies, she immediately suspects that the British were behind it. Arthur Davis was Maurice Castle's coworker and was wrongly suspected of being the agent who was leaking governmental secrets to the Communists. He is therefore killed on the recommendation of Dr. Emmanuel Percival, a member of British intelligence who is summoned by Sir John Hargreaves to deal with the security leak. He feels no remorse when he is given the news that the wrong man was killed.

Cornelius Muller is another important character. A representative of apartheid, Muller opposed Castle seven years before the book's events when Castle broke South Africa's race laws. Muller eventually suspects Castle of being the double agent and informs Hargreaves. Colonel Daintry works below Hargreaves, and his humanity leads to difficult situations, especially when Davis is wrongfully killed. When Daintry visits Castle to discuss Davis' death and Castle admits that Davis was not the double agent, Daintry reports this to his superiors with the intention of resigning afterward. A discussion of the book's characters may also include Sir John Hargreaves, Daintry's superior. Hargreaves is the one who instructs the security officers that they must eliminate the double agent. Because he places so much trust in intuition, when Muller suspects Castle, Hargreaves reluctantly sends Daintry to question him.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 829

Maurice Castle

Maurice Castle, a sixty-two-year-old agent in British intelligence who is leaking governmental information about South Africa to the Communists. Castle’s reason is his gratitude to Carson, a friend who gave Marxism a human face for him by arranging for the escape from prison of Sarah, the black South African Castle later married. Although he is scrupulously careful, Castle suspects that his leaks have been noticed. Nevertheless, Castle conveys to his Russian contact, Boris, information about Uncle Remus, a secret operation of the United States and Britain to protect their shared financial concerns in support of apartheid in South Africa. After Castle’s coworker Arthur Davis dies, Castle realizes that the leak had been traced to his office but the wrong man was killed. He dangerously decides to send one more report when he sees in the notes of the South African representative, Cornelius Muller, the words “final solution,” a chilling reminder of Nazi horrors. Almost at the same time, Castle uses an emergency telephone signal to arrange his escape from England. With British intelligence now suspecting him, Castle travels in disguise to Moscow on the expectation that the KGB will arrange for Sarah and her young son Sam to follow. The British delay their passage, however. Finally, Castle makes telephone contact with Sarah in England, but shortly into their conversation the line goes dead.

Sarah Castle

Sarah Castle, Maurice’s wife. Sarah worked with Castle when he was a field agent in South Africa. She immediately suspects that the death of Davis was the work of the British. When Castle later tells her that he is what most would consider a traitor, Sarah responds, “Who cares?” She reminds Castle that she and he have their own country and that he has never betrayed that. Talking to Castle in Moscow by telephone from England, she urges him to go on hoping that she will be able to join him.

Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis, Castle’s coworker. Young and incautious in his lunchtime dates with an office worker, Davis is wrongly suspected of being the double agent who is leaking secrets to the Russians. On Dr. Percival’s recommendation, the firm kills Davis with a poisonous mold extracted from rancid peanuts. His death confirms to Castle the firm’s knowledge of the leak.

Dr. Emmanuel Percival

Dr. Emmanuel Percival, a member of British intelligence. Percival is summoned by Sir John Hargreaves to deal with the security leak in Castle’s office. Percival’s inhumanity finds a justifying analogy for killing the double agent in the symmetrical squares of Ben Nicholson’s art: the out-of-balance element requires elimination. When later told that the wrong man was murdered, Percival feels no remorse, because for him maintaining security is more important than a correct diagnosis. Percival sees Davis’ death, like the firm’s prevention of Castle’s family from joining him in Moscow, as nothing personal.

Cornelius Muller

Cornelius Muller, a representative of apartheid. Muller opposed Castle seven years earlier in South Africa when Castle broke that country’s race laws. Now in England, Muller is smoothly polite in dealing with Castle as a representative of British intelligence. He supplies Castle with particulars about Operation Uncle Remus that Castle conveys to the Communists. Muller also leaves some notes with Castle that include the ominous heading of the “final solution.” Muller’s knowledge of Castle’s earlier friendship with Carson in South Africa makes him suspect Castle, and he tells Hargreaves of his intuition.

Colonel Daintry

Colonel Daintry, the new head of security. Daintry’s efforts to bring a measure of humanity to his work are frustrated by Percival’s willingness to kill Davis without proof of his guilt. Daintry realizes that his life in the world of secrets has cost him his marriage. He obeys Hargreaves’ order to visit Castle and discuss the death of Davis. He relays to his superiors Castle’s admission that Davis was not the double agent and then intends to resign his job.

Sir John Hargreaves

Sir John Hargreaves, Daintry’s superior. At his country house one weekend, Hargreaves instructs security officers that they must eliminate the double agent rather than face the embarrassment of a public treason trial. His previous experience in South Africa and his respect for intuition lead him reluctantly to act on Muller’s suspicions and send Daintry to question Castle.

Buller

Buller, Castle and Sarah’s dog. Although an enthusiastic killer of cats, the boxer Buller bestows acceptance and affection indiscriminately on people, and he is the only character in the book to do so. He leaves his spittle “like a bonbon” on the trouser legs of apartheid activist Cornelius Muller as well as on those of the Marxist Halliday. When Castle must leave England, Halliday instructs him to kill Buller so that his unattended barking will not excite the neighbors’ suspicions. Castle has difficulty doing so, not because he loves the dog but because he has never before killed anything.

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