The Manchurian Candidate book Review

Title: The Manchurian Candidate

Author: Richard Condon

Publication Year: 1959


“The Manchurian Candidate,” penned by the prolific Richard Condon, is a political thriller first published in 1959. Combining elements of intrigue, psychology, and suspense, Condon’s masterful narrative explores the dark recesses of political manipulation, mind control, and conspiracy during the Cold War era.

Plot Summary

The plot centers around Sergeant Raymond Shaw, a war hero from the Korean War, who is brainwashed into becoming an unwilling assassin for a Communist conspiracy. Unbeknownst to Shaw, his actions are being controlled by his manipulative mother, a Communist agent working with her second husband, Senator Johnny Iselin. When Shaw’s former comrade, Major Bennett Marco, begins having nightmares hinting at the brainwashing scheme, he sets out to uncover the truth, setting in motion a thrilling chase against time and deception.

Analysis and Interpretation

Condon delves into various themes throughout the novel, notably the danger of political manipulation, the malleability of human perception, and the ease with which power can corrupt. The novel’s grim vision of brainwashing speaks to deeper anxieties about autonomy, freedom, and individuality.

Raymond Shaw stands out as an unforgettable character – a tragic figure, manipulated by those who should love and protect him. His plight represents the ultimate loss of agency, reflecting broader societal fears about personal freedoms under the threat of totalitarian regimes. The character of Eleanor Iselin, Shaw’s mother, is an embodiment of treachery and blind ambition, whose grotesque machinations become a chilling statement on the corrupting influence of power.

Personal Reflection

Reading “The Manchurian Candidate” is an unsettling but enlightening experience. Despite its historical context, the themes are strikingly relevant in today’s era of political polarization and information warfare. The manipulation and exploitation of individuals, represented through Shaw’s tragic fate, resonate with the current concerns about the abuse of personal data and privacy.

Historical, Cultural, and Political Context

In its historical context, “The Manchurian Candidate” brilliantly mirrors the societal fears and tensions of the Cold War era. Written during a time when the fear of Communism was rampant in the United States, the novel cleverly exploits these anxieties, presenting a dystopian narrative that seems all too plausible in its setting. It also offers a timeless critique of McCarthyism and its potentially destructive effects on individuals and society.


“The Manchurian Candidate” is a powerful and provocative novel that delves into the heart of political and psychological manipulation. Though firmly grounded in its Cold War era, its themes remain alarmingly relevant, inviting readers to reflect on contemporary political climates and the constant tug-of-war over individual autonomy and privacy. It’s a gripping thriller that doesn’t shy away from a deeply unsettling reality, making it a vital read for anyone interested in understanding the intersection of politics, psychology, and society.

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