Red Sparrow Summary & Study Guide

Jason Matthews
This Study Guide consists of approximately 103 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Red Sparrow.
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Red Sparrow Summary & Study Guide Description

Red Sparrow Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews.

The following version of the novel was used to create this study guide: Jason, Matthews. Red Sparrow. Scribner, June 4, 2013. Kindle.

In Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews, Dominika Egorova is driven by her anger at the unjustness of the Russian system to become a double agent working for the CIA. She yearned to be seen as an intelligent person with capabilities beyond her beauty and physical attractiveness. Dominika believed the Americans saw her worth and would treat her fairly where the Russians had not. Feeling used as a pawn by the Americans in a plan to replace a long-time double agent and rejected by her handler and lover Nathaniel “Nate” Nash, Dominika considered leaving her life as a spy. A violent twist at the end of the novel demonstrated the Russians’ lack of loyalty and trustworthiness and leaves the reader wondering if Dominika will reconsider her claim that she will cut ties with the Americans.

Diagnosed with synesthesia, a condition in which she could see music, words and even people’s emotions and intentions as colors, Dominika had a promising career in ballet. Her condition allowed her to follow the colors produced by the music as she danced. Shortly before an audition for the Bolshoi troupe, a jealous classmate arranged for Dominika to be injured in an accident. Dominika’s foot was broken and her career as a dancer ended. Shortly afterward, Dominika’s father died from a stroke. It was at her father’s funeral that her uncle, Egorov, proposed that she do a job for him for Russia’s secret service. He promised to take care of her mother if she cooperated.

This first job that Dominika did for the SVR (Russian intelligence service) led to a career in the secret service. Egorov asked Dominika to seduce Ustinov, an enemy of Putin, to see if she could elicit any secrets from him for which he could be put in prison. The first night Dominika spent with Ustinov an executioner killed Ustinov while he was having sex with Dominika, an assassination about which Dominika was not warned. Since she witnessed the death of Ustinov, Egorov knew she was dangerous. She could not be allowed to tell what she knew to anyone because it would put Putin’s presidency in jeopardy, which, in turn, would put Egorov’s ambitions to be the leader of the SVR in jeopardy.

When Dominika suggested that she be sent to the SVR academy, it was deemed the perfect solution. Dominika finished her courses at the top of her class and was looking forward to a distinguished career as an officer but her uncle instead informed her she would be going to Sparrow School. The school taught women how to seduce men in order to arrest them or elicit information from them. From that point forward, Dominika was seen by the men in the department only as a tool that could be used to seduce and draw in the men they hoped to recruit. One team leader even ruined a recruitment on which Dominika was working because she insisted she could recruit the man without the use of sex.

It was at this point that Dominika was sent to Helsinki to try to learn the name of an SVR mole being handled by the American CIA officer Nate. The two fell in love and had an intimate relationship even though Nate’s superior officers warned him the relationship was a bad idea. Nate was devastated when Dominika disappeared after an operation involving an American mole went wrong and Dominika was suspected of working with the Americans. She was jailed and tortured but the Russians were not able to elicit a confession from her. Dominika was eventually reinstated and sent to work with General Korchnoi, head of the SVR’s Americas Department.

Unknown to Dominika, Korchnoi is the mole working with Nate. Sensing that his time as a spy was drawing to a close, Korchnoi made plans to have Dominika replace him as the leading double agent for the Americans. Before he allowed himself to be betrayed, Korchnoi helped the Americans identify SWAN, an American mole selling military secrets to the Russians. With their star spy gone, the Russians were more determined to find the mole in their own department. Korchnoi concocted a plan to have Dominika turn him in as the spy, a plan that would earn her leverage in the SVR and allow her access to the information she would need to take over his job.

When Dominika learned she had been used as a pawn to betray Korchnoi, her friend and mentor, she felt that the Americans had used her just like the Russians had. She refused even to return to Russia until she learned that a prisoner swap had been arranged between Russia and Greece, a country where it was believed she was being held captive. The Russians said they would release Korchnoi for the safe return of Dominika. Even though Dominika agreed to cooperate with the swap to free Korchnoi she told the CIA she planned to cut ties with them. Just as the swap appeared to have been successful, Korchnoi was shot and killed by a Russian sharpshooter. Dominika’s anger at her country’s treachery flared when she realized what had happened. The reader is left wondering if Dominika’s loyalties will return to America after what happened to Korchnoi.

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