Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 587
*London. Center of the British Empire and home to exiled revolutionaries and refugees from throughout Europe. During the time of the novel, the great latitude and freedom extended by the British government to these exiles was a perpetual source of irritation and concern for more repressive governments on the continent of Europe, especially the unnamed country represented by Mr. Vladimir.
Verloc’s shop. Shabby establishment at 32 Brett Street in the Soho section of London. As a cover to his activities as a secret agent for a foreign government (probably Russian), Adolf Verloc operates a small shop where he sells stationery, inks, and questionable publications, most of them of a vaguely revolutionary or quasi-pornographic nature. During business hours, the shop’s door is left open and the coming and going of customers is signaled by a small, loud bell. Faded magazines, obscure newspapers, a few shabby bottles of ink, and other writing materials are displayed in the glass front of the shop and ranged along the shelves behind the counter. During much of the time, Verloc sits on a stool at the counter, hardly moving.
Verloc’s home. Behind the shop live Verloc and his wife, Winnie, along with Winnie’s aged mother and mentally deficient brother, Stevie. The home is furnished with what furniture remains with Winnie’s mother from earlier, more prosperous days of her own marriage. Together, the shop and home present a thoroughly unremarkable appearance; the business is adequate but hardly prosperous. In a similar fashion, Verloc’s secret life is only marginally successful. The parlor of the Verloc home is the meeting place of anarchists, socialists, and revolutionaries from throughout Europe, but these conspirators are merely ineffectual talkers, incapable of true action. Verloc’s establishment is an appropriate physical setting for his secret but sordid activities.
Assistant commissioner’s office
Assistant commissioner’s office. Office in the headquarters of the London police charged with investigating crimes such as Verloc’s and the site of a lengthy discussion between the assistant commissioner and the chief inspector on the Verloc case. The assistant commissioner’s office, barely described by Conrad, is a lean, functional place, much like the assistant commissioner himself. Its function defines its appearance: It is a place where solid, honest work is performed.
London embassy. Typical diplomatic establishment of an unnamed European government. From the hints given by the narrative, the unnamed government is most probably the Russian Empire, although it might possibly be the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, both of which were highly fearful of international revolutionaries and employed secret agents such as Verloc against them. It is in these highly polished surroundings that Mr. Vladimir gives Verloc his instructions that lead to the bombing incident at the Greenwich Observatory.
Sir Ethelred’s chambers
Sir Ethelred’s chambers. Official chambers located near the Houses of Parliament in London. As the office of the secretary of state, a high-ranking ministry in the British government, Sir Ethelred’s dignified, solemn chambers represent the stability and solidity of Britain and its society. When the assistant commissioner reports to Sir Ethelred about the progress of the Verloc case, he does so in this setting.
Drawing room of a “great lady.”
Drawing room of a “great lady.” Highly decorated site of social events which draw together characters from all ranks of society, including the assistant commissioner, revolutionary friends of Verloc, and foreign diplomats such as Mr. Vladimir. In a sense, the drawing room is a microcosm of London society.
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