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Charlie's Moral Ambiguity In The Litle Drummer Girl

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Gretchen Kokoszka

Terrorism and Literature

October 15, 2002

Moral Ambiguity of Charlie in The Little Drummer Girl

In George J. Lennard's, "John le Carre" critical assessment of the ending of Little Drummer Girl, he claims that "Charlie can not continue to act in the theater of the real...she can no longer return to the romantic fluff of Western middle class society." Charlie's last line in the novel, the theater of the real, are "I am dead" (pp.659), which confirms Lennard's statement. Charlie, an actress, by nature and craft is a coerced into a scheme to infiltrate a terrorist ring, against her convictions. By playing upon Charlie's insecurities and her need for acceptance, this scheme forms a kind of moral ambiguity and uncertainness inside Charlie. When it ends, her world is shattered, and she becomes "dead" in a figurative sense.

The theater of the real forces Charlie to give a performance of a lifetime as her own life is at stake. In the beginning Charlie, willing and naive, accepts the script given to her by Joseph. Joseph himself, trains Charlie how to act in this scheme, much like an acting coach trains an inexperienced theatrical student. Along the way, Joseph gives her important pieces of advice such as "stay with the logic of the fiction...weaken and you will ruin the operation...we'll repair [any] damage (pp. 468), advice which Charlie does not closely follow. In a world that will be turn upside down for Charlie, Joseph is her one remaining constant.

The people Charlie comes in contact with can be best described as characters or actors in fiction as well. The characters names change almost as frequently as Charlie's views of her situation. The changing names give way to the belief that the characters, under disguise, can not really be held responsible for their actions as they are in costume. As the novel progresses, Charlie also changes costumes much like a chameleon changes with its environment. When Charlie's character is the Israelites, she is sympathetic to them; likewise, when she is with the Palestinians, she takes on their beliefs, which in it self creates a chaos and provides substance to the theme of moral ambiguity in le Carre's novel.

Charlie begins her journey into moral ambiguity with the death of Michel, a Palestinian terrorist. Following her script carefully, Charlie infiltrates the terrorist ring, convincing them that she was Michel's lover. Charlie gives an outstanding "controlled but deeply felt performance"(pp. 420), as tears stream down her face and screams "you bastards, Fascist cheats, who killed my darling lover in the theater of the real" (pp. 421). The fact that Charlie actually refers to herself as a character in a play shows that Charlie has not yet changes costumes to fit the Palestinians believes and thus conflict of her moral ambiguity has not yet arrived.

Just as Charlie beings to assimilate to the "life of isolation" (pp. 464) that has been created for her by Joseph, Charlie is thrust back into the uncostumed world of the real. As she arrives at her own flat, an old abusive lover, Al contacts her and demands that she "come 'round now" (pp. 471) significantly showing the reader that Charlie's character both in the world of real and fiction is equally submissive to the demands of her male counter parts. However, unlike Charlie's theatrical character, she begins to ask Al questions and stands up to him when she disagrees, creating a paradox to her other self. Upon returning to the Terrorist ring, Charlie now, more than ever finds it easiest to comply with the scripts instructions.

Because Charlie has adopted her role in the theater of the real so well, it becomes uncertain which views are of the real Charlie as opposed to her theatrical character. It is only when the two world begin to combine, Charlie finds that she must not only stick to the script given to her, but also begin to write her own lines as Joseph advises her to "play no tricks, just use your very own model," (pp. 492) if she is to be believed. By doing this, Charlie indeed is taking on a chameleon like personality as her convictions and certainties fade away. Perhaps Charlie's merging worlds is best shown in a love scene shared between Joseph and Charlie. At this point, the reader is uncertain whether or not Charlie is simply acting, pretending it is her theatrical character making love to Michel or if she is truly giving into a personal desire.

A world of false appearance, passports and papers become a world that Charlie beings to appreciate. She finds the characters "an easy people to love," (pp. 497) for reason such as their shyness...their discipline and authority over her (pp. 503). The authority in the terrorist characters provide her with new ideas and beliefs of the revolution. Charlie, convincingly sequesters herself to the Revolution in the name of Michel, her dead lover. As she joins, Charlie once again becomes blind to the leading of the force which guides her. As Charlie adopts her script, and the beliefs written in it, she begins to wonder if "the actress in her is dead at last...whether she was



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