Ian Fleming Essay, Research Paper
The name s Bond. James Bond.
Ian Fleming s personal experiences helped him achieve accuracy in technical information and ideas that he would later demonstrate in his writing. Ian Fleming led a fast paced, risky life. He was born in 1908 to wealthy parents, Valentine Fleming and Evelyn St. Croix Rose Fleming. Valentine Fleming was a landowner and a member of Parliament. Valentine died in the Great War when Ian was only nine. Ian enrolled in Eton University in England but was dismissed following an incident with a girl, a situation that would arise repeatedly throughout his life and show up later in his writing through the Bond girls . Fleming then moved on to the Sandhurst Military Academy. He looked down on traditional military careers and never became an officer. He believed they were all too confining. Fleming officially left after he was caught violating curfew. Fleming s independence and desire to build his own identity clashed sharply with military conduct. After leaving the military academy, Fleming continued his schooling at Kitzbuhel in Austria. It was here that Ian gained his reputation for being handsome, cultured, and confident with the ladies.
Fleming experimented with writing poetry and short stories, but had no intention of becoming a serious writer. Over the next few years he tried journalism and banking, both without success. Ian began to invite coworkers to lavish dinner parties at his rented apartment. High-stake bridge games, elaborate feasts, and empty romances eventually became his pasttimes. This was the time in his life when gambling, drinking, and women would eventually influence his novels.
In May 1939 on the eve of World War II, Ian enlisted in the Royal Navy and became part of Naval Intelligence. He was quickly promoted and in short time found himself working with one of Britain s greatest spys, Admiral John Godfrey. Throughout the war Ian carried out and led dozens of and dangerous missions. Fleming s supervisors recognized his talent for conceiving strategies that would confuse and enrage the Germans. This creativity is very evident a myriad of strategies presented in his novels and was probably developed during his years with the Navy. Fleming s writing skill became apparent to others while he commanded British Intelligence. His journals were not dull like most military journals. Instead, his unorthodox style and almost limitless knowledge of every subject made his journals interesting. Fleming discovered his potential and ability and thus began perhaps the most famous series of novels ever written.
Through the use of stereotyped characters, exotic settings, and non-stop action, Ian Fleming created a new style of popular literature where fiction collided with reality. Until Fleming became commercially successful, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dominated the techno-thriller market. Ian Fleming captivated the old audience and added new legions of fans in the late 1950s and early 1960s with his action packed 007 novels. By presenting an entirely new literary form, the spy novel, Fleming gave the world s readers a new inspirational hero, James Bond.
By including elements of danger, adventure, espionage, wit, and promiscuity, he attracted millions of readers worldwide. Fleming used his personal formula in all of his extremely successful 007 novels. He entertained a new audience with a character, James Bond, whose primary interest was national security. Fleming allowed Bond to save the world from evil in style, and in this way created the modern spy novel.
Bond, a secret agent employed by the British government with the code name 007, had assignments ranging from saving the world from nuclear annihalation to stopping a greedy criminal who would make America s supply of gold at Ft. Knox radioactive. His missions became more difficult and the stakes always grew higher with each successive novel. Although Bond was employed by the British Secret Service, Fleming wanted the reader to understand that 007 was independent and typically performed his duties alone.
Ian Fleming revealed few details about James Bond, the secret agent, almost making Bond inhuman. The reader is never given details about Bond s family or his other pursuits in life. No one knew where James Bond was the week before, what his favorite food was, or what his favorite pasttimes were. Details like emphasize that Bond was not meant to be understood as a common person. The following passage from the very end of Fleming s The Spy Who Loved Me, spoken by Bond s lover, Vivienne Michel, is indicative of how Fleming wanted his audience to view Bond s character:
A secret agent? I didn t care what he did. A number? I had already forgotten it. I knew exactly who he was and what he was. And everything, every smallest detail, would be written on my heart forever (143) .
The reader is not supposed to understand James s emotions. Fleming s secret agent was created with stoicism in mind; that is, Bond shows little emotion despite his surroundings or circumstances. Fleming intended that his audience view Bond as a mysterious agent, not a mortal. A reader loses faith in a character that is not one hundred percent confidant in himself. If Bond were to break down emotionally in a scene, he would not be viewed as the strong character essential to all Fleming s subsequent plots.
I wiped the wound as clean as I could and got out Merthiolate and a big Band-Aid. The cut wasn t deep, but there would soon be a bad bruise. He said, Sorry, Viv. I made rather a hash of that round. (Fleming 120).
While Bond was just grazed by a bullet in this passage from The Spy Who Loved Me, the obvious pain inflicted by the gunshot didn t affect him. Instead, he changed the subject to his hasty shooting at the two thugs.
Ian Fleming employed larger-than-life male characters in each one of his 007 novels. Besides James Bond, there are at least two other such characters that can be found in every story. A villain, usually distinguished by a physical deformity, is always master minding a plot that Bond must foil (Van Dover 160). Auric Goldfinger, in Goldfinger, had the ability to turn objects into gold, in order to feed his greed. The reader of 007 novels could always expect the villain to torture Bond when he was subdued. For example, Auric Goldfinger, in the novel Goldfinger, tortured Bond brutally. In a famous scene from the movie based on the same book, Goldfinger bound James to a table and attempted to torture him with a giant laser. Largo, the villain in Thunderball, was easily recognized by his eye patch and white suit. Largo is most easily remembered for the tanks of sharks he kept at his private resort. Fleming used these fierce creatures to reinforce the idea that Bond s enemies were more violent and deranged than most criminals.
The second stereotyped character is the Bond girl . In every one of Fleming s novels, a predictable, pliant female can be found (Van Dover 160). Often this woman is introduced as either an enemy of Bond or as an accessory to the primary villain. This woman is usually lured away from evil and becomes intimate with Bond. In addition to an evil woman, a physically attractive female on Bond’s side typically aids him in his missions. Fleming s inclusion of provacative females in each of his movies and novels undoubtedly helped promote his works; just their exploitation does so in today s popular culture.
The sources of Bond s sudden appeal in England, but especially in America, are many (Van Dover 158). The setting and time period of Fleming s stories contributed much to their quick successes. The 1957 launch of Sputnik by the Soviets posed a terrifying threat to democracy. However, Bond always semmed capable of neutralizing all dangers to the free world. The well-publicized careers of actual spies- Burgess and MacLean (1954), Colonel Abel (1957), Oleg Penovsky (1962), Francis Gary Powers (1962), Kim Philby (1963)- focused attention upon this aspect of the Cold War, and events such as the Hungarian rebellion (1956), the Berlin Wall and the Bay of Pigs (1961), and the Cuban Missle Crisis (1962) emphasized that the Cold War was indeed a reality (Van Dover 160). The western world desired reassurance that democracy was still strong. Fleming delivered this reassurance in the form of his powerfully written James Bond stories. Fleming often pitted the Russians against the English and Americans in his novels, creating a pseudo-realistic scenario where the Russians would attempt to conquer democracy ( Pearson 58). Furthermore, supporters of democracy would be more likely to believe that their cause was right if a hero was fighting for them. Fleming never let Bond fail, no matter how treacherous or improbable his mission was. While Bond was a fictitious character, readers in democratic nations saw James Bond as a symbol of perservearance and freedom. As Fleming wrote more stories, Bond s charisma grew to the point where many readers actually believed that there was a real spy whose name was James Bond, the man who saved the world from evil.
A typical formula, or set of actions, common to most of Fleming s novels noted Ian s new style of writing. A female who would appear to be Bond s opposition would fall in love with him. The reader could always count on one master villain that Bond gracefully kills in the end. It should be noted that Bond was not a savage; he only killed when absolutely necessary. The following passage from The Spy Who Loved Me gives a rare insight into Bond s motivations when Vivienne asks Bond why he didn t kill the two thugs:
Why didn t you just shoot them down? They were sitting ducks with those sets in their hands.
He said curtly, Never been able to in cold blood. But at least I ought to have been able to blast that man s foot off. Must have nicked it, and now he s still in the game.
Another typical characteristic of a 007 novel was location, which was always somewhere exotic. In Thunderball, the plot unravels in the Caribbean islands. The heart of the Adirondack Mountains was the scene for The Spy Who Loved Me. The majority of From Russia With Love took place in Moscow. Crowded bars, clubs, fine restaurants, banquet halls, intricate enemy hideouts, and government buildings served as the scenery in every novel. Gambling, drinking, fine dining, promiscuity, torture, shootouts, midnight expeditions, and explosions can be found in one combination or another in every 007 story Fleming wrote.
He wrote his short stories and novels for approximately the last twelve years of his busy life. His first novels became popular quickly and appealed to an expanding audience. In 1963 most major bookstores around the globe sold copies of Dr. No and From Russia, With Love . And by 1965, every 007 novel had become a superseller with over fifty million dollars in total earnings.
Ian Fleming s literature was widely labeled as being quite literal (Riley 159). Ian Fleming did not intend to hide his messages and themes. Almost anyone could read and understand his works. This is perhaps why his newly created style of writing caught on so quickly. By appealing to the popular requests of the people of the 1950s and 1960s for excitement, Fleming became a success. Much like today s television programs and movies, elements such as surprise, sex, action, violence, and an easily understood plot typically lead to high ratings. Perhaps Fleming realized this more than 40 years ago.