(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The contrast between Soviet and American societies as exemplified by their militaries is a major theme of The Hunt for Red October, but it is not the only one. Another significant theme that is played out on several levels of the novel is that of betrayal. When the story begins, Marko Ramius has already completed his plans to betray his government. He is motivated by his hatred for the communist system, by disgust at its treatment of his countrymen, the Lithuanians, and by a desire to punish the Soviet government. A tightly self-controlled man, he does not lash out at those who have hurt him but instead determines how best to harm his government and then schemes for months to put his fellow conspirators in the right places for success. Ramius's betrayal is a calculated response to a cruel and stifling society. It is a gesture of independence.

Betrayals can take several forms. Some can be coolly calculated, like that of Ramius. Others can be routine, like the reports of naval "political officers" who reveal to the Communist Party the deviations from doctrine of their shipmates. Others can be the products of foolishness, as in the case of Peter Henderson, aide to a powerful U.S. Senator who has often given the CIA trouble. Dismayed by the shootings of student protesters at Kent State and the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, Henderson gave Soviet KGB agents some information. As a CIA agent put it, the KGB "offers the hook, and he nibbled at it. A few years later, of course, they stuck the hook nice and hard and he couldn't get away." Henderson's treason betrayed American foreign agents, resulting in their deaths; the CIA not only traps him but uses his betrayal to force the senator into retirement.

Betrayals and deceptions throughout The Hunt for Red October create suspense...

(The entire section is 744 words.)