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The Spy (Mata Hari) Summary & Study Guide

Coelho, Paulo
This Study Guide consists of approximately 41 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Spy.
This section contains 655 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Spy (Mata Hari) Summary & Study Guide Description

The Spy (Mata Hari) 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 The Spy (Mata Hari) by Coelho, Paulo .

The following version of the novel was used to create this study guide: Coelho, Paulo. The Spy. Vintage, Nov. 22, 2016. Kindle.

In The Spy by Paulo Coelho, dancer Mata Hari rebels against the accepted roles of women for her time period in order to follow her dreams. At the beginning of World War I, she is sought by German officials to act as a spy because she is having an affair with the man who will become France’s minister of war. Mata Hari refuses to work as a spy, saying she has no problem being a prostitute, but will not betray France. Regardless, charges are brought against her and she is found guilty.

This novel opens with the details of the execution of Mata Hari on October 15, 1917, in Paris. Her story fits in the genre of historical fiction. Mata Hari, a dancer from France was executed as a spy in the early part of World War I. The evidence against her never merited the charges. The novel, which consists of a letter Mata Hari wrote during the last week of her life, and a letter from Edouard Clunet, her lawyer are works of fiction though they are based on the facts of Mata Hari’s life, trial and execution.

Mata Hari tells the story of her life in her letter to Clunet. She describes how she was raped as a sixteen-year-old by her high school principal and her abusive marriage. A dance performance by the people of Indonesia and suicide of the wife of another officer of the military gave Mata Hari the motivation she needed to break free from her misery. She went to Paris where she presented herself as a classical performer who danced to Oriental music. Her dances included nudity but she believed the nudity was meaningful in the context of the dance. She lived a comfortable life not only because of the money she earned through her dancing but also because she was willing to have affairs with powerful men. She used sex as a way to get what she wanted and needed.

Because Mata Hari’s popularity waned in France as she became older, she was lured to Germany by Franz Olav, a man who promised her a new rise in popularity. Her career there was short-lived because the German soldiers shut down the performance halls and her benefactor was drafted into the army. As he drove her to the train station so she could return to the Netherlands, a neutral country, he told her he had been employed to request that she act as a spy for Germany. She told him that she would not. He gave her the name of his friend, Karl Kramer who was the German consul in The Hague. Franz told her that Kramer could help her get back to France but would probably also try to recruit her as a spy.

When Mata Hari went to visit Kramer, he tried to recruit her. She went immediately to Georges Ladoux, the head of counterespionage for the French but instead of being seen as a good citizen, she was marked for surveillance. Ladoux brought false charges against Mata Hari and had her convicted of espionage. She was ordered to be killed by firing squad.

The final fourth of the novel is composed of a letter written to Mata Hari by Clunet. In it, he professes his love for her and argues that his defense of her case was not as bad as she claimed it was. He describes the circumstances that converged to make Mata Hari a scapegoat used by Ladoux to recover his own reputation after his involvement in the Dreyfus case. He argues that the frequent lies that Mata Hari told did not make his job easy. As he ends his letter, he tells Mata Hari that God will pass judgment on the people who wrongly condemned her to death.

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