Tom Clanceys' "The Cardinal of the Kremlin"

Essay by storegeckoHigh School, 10th gradeA+, October 2006

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In Tom Clancy's "The Cardinal of the Kremlin", there are many characters who play significant, but small roles. They may show up at one part of the book and never resurface again, due to the fact that this book is more about a situation than a person. There are three characters, however, that do appear more relevant and more often than the others, these characters are the Archer, Misha, and Jack Ryan. The Archer was an Afghan of about thirty years of age. He was a teacher of mathematics until three years prior, and a college graduate in a country where most people deemed it enough to be able to read the Koran. He had married young, as was the custom in his land, and fathered two children. But his wife and daughter were dead, killed by rockets fired from a Russian attack fighter. He believed his son to be kidnapped and shipped to the Soviet Union, where he would be educated and trained in modern ways.

The archer knew that he must avenge the hardships brought on to him. In the following passage it is shown that the archer is a bitter vigilante who feels that he himself must right societies injustices, "The teacher of Algebra and Geometry neatly stacked his books on his desk and walked out of the small town of Ghazni and into the hills.

A week later he'd returned to the town after dark with three other men and proved that he was worthy of his heritage by killing three Soviet soldiers and taking their arms." The Archer later goes on to pronounce, "I still carry the knife that once belonged to my first sacrificial Russian..." this quote shows that The Archer is almost ritualistic in his dealings, and that he feels all Russians are contemptible primates not worthy of the term "human being." The Archer, although by modern western standards a villain, feels that he is a mudjaheddin, or freedom fighter, and that he is acting in accordance to the divine will of Allah. He praises the god whenever he is given the chance; one example of this is when he disdainfully utters " Allah's name I shall strike you dead," and once again when the author writes "The Archer blessed Allah's name as he withdrew his knife from its sheath." These aforementioned quotes also show that the Archer was abnormally violent and felt little to no remorse for the lives he took, in fact he looked upon his killings as his contribution to his country, his family, and himself. Colonel Marshal Yazov or Misha as he was called was a former Soviet Union tank captain, decorated three times with the honor of Hero of the Soviet Union. He had fought for his country for many years and recently was promoted to title of Defense General, the highest defensive position in the government.

Misha is introduced early and shown as more than just a stereotypical hard-nosed Russian soldier who cares more for Vodka than he does his family. When the reader first learns of Misha he is talking to a woman at a social function about junior hockey, and how much joy it brings Misha to see his son play it. He says, "I am now a proud grandfather four times over," showing that he is also very emotional. Misha is later softened up even more when he reveals, "Anna, my only true love and mother to my children, died of cancer." At this point the reader finds it hard to believe that this man has the power to deploy nuclear weapons at just about any time and towards anyone that he wishes. The book does, however, reaffirm your original impression of him when you learn that Misha has been a copying top secret information and covertly briefing the CIA on its contents. One problem I have with this character is that he is portrayed as a true Russian Patriot, in a conversation between Jack Ryan and Marko Ramius, he is describes as, "A man who has risked his life many times, and has no quarrel with dying for his country." But he, for some reason, decides to defect and tell the United States, a country he has plotted against for years, everything that they want to know. Jack Ryan is an educated CIA man with knowledge in many fields, but now his main concern is with intelligence and strategy. Lieutenant Sanders goes to Colonel Decker with a complaint about Jack, and Decker's response goes as follows, "Don't be to quick to make an enemy of him, he's one of the smartest men this office has ever had...and more importantly he's a people person, he doesn't just look at what we're proposing to do, but who were going to do it to and the affects it could have on them and the affects it could have on us." This shows that he is very respected by his superiors and one can assume that he has worked hard to earn that respect. Later in the book the President and Colonel Decker are deciding whether or not Jack can be briefed on the identity and existence of Misha, or as he is known in the inner circle "Cardinal." Here is a response from Decker when the President asks if they can trust Jack: "Sir, he may not be military, or even worthy of any medal we have to give, but he is a true American..." showing that the people around him have faith in him and that what he has done has proved to be enough to win the accolades of even the most cynical (Decker.)

In conclusion, I feel that this was over all a good novel with mediocre characterization. It definitely was not on my top ten list but was not on the worst ten either. I think that Tom Clancy could have done better in the areas of both direct and indirect characterizing. For example, he could have given more of an introduction to each of the characters; he also could have had a better flowing dialogue between all the characters. Many of his characters contradicted their characterizations with their actions, which left me a little upset and at times confused. In the first 150 or so pages it is easy to get lost, you are bombarded by literally scores of Russian names that all kind of blend together, especially if you're reading late at night and somewhat passively.