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Consider the ways Frayn presents Uncle Peter in 'Spies'

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Consider the ways Frayn presents Uncle Peter - Redrafted In the novel Spies, Frayn presents the character of Uncle Peter in a variety of ways. Although he is not physically present for a large portion of the novel, the contrasts in his character, such as the conflicting traits of the brave fighter and the terrified man, are developed throughout. We are first introduced to Uncle Peter in chapter two, as an absent figure of worship in Auntie Dee's house. Uncle Peter is established as a bomber pilot away fighting during WW2, a particularly dangerous job that generated a great level of respect amongst the people of the Home Front, as demonstrated by the young Stephen's idolisation of him. His wife, Dee, is therefore depicted as having transformed their house into a shrine to her husband, with 'the untidiness itself glow[ing] with a kind of sacred light... they reflected the glory of Uncle Peter'. He is portrayed as a warm and loving father and husband, with a kind and open nature mirrored by his wife and his baby girl, Milly. Hints of his supposed character are given to us, and we learn of his 'cheerful bravery' and 'recklessly open smile'. ...read more.


Yet, even at this stage, there are slight indications that the character of Uncle Peter, and the image of perfection that he embodies are largely due to the perspective of the child, Stephen, and how he viewed Uncle Peter at a young age. References to 'blood-red' and a 'uniform flecked with pink' imply a more violent and realistic aspect of war, less focused upon by the younger generation. In many ways, the character of Uncle Peter is representative on the surface of everything that a younger Stephen aspires to be. He epitomises the love and respect Stephen wants to obtain from his family, Keith, and his peers, the excitement of war that Stephen has been raised to find enticing, and the supposed personal strength and character that Stephen wishes he had himself. This influences many of Stephen's decisions later on in the novel, and creates a sense of denial within him as he begins to realise that Uncle Peter's life is not as desirable as it may seem. There is a stark contrast in personality between how Stephen perceives Uncle Peter, and that of the tramp, who is later revealed to be the same man. Uncle Peter as Stephen's hero - a happy and well-adjusted man, happy and secure. ...read more.


Stephen is used to take messages between the couple, and is attempting to discover what is really going on, and the issue of secrets and spying dominates the novel. The death of Uncle Peter in chapter ten largely forms the climax of the novel. The train, which was a sinister element of the novel identified early on as 'pass[ing] invisibly' around the Close, ironically is carrying shattered aircraft parts as cargo. Eventually the train kills Uncle Peter - either as an act of suicide or as a result of a chase, thus showing how the war that glorified and inspired such worship of Uncle Peter, eventually was his own undoing. The pressure from his peers and his country to perform and fight, despite his terror is shown to have had a devastating effect on his mental stability, and the guilt he feels from the deaths he has caused eventually provoke feelings of desolation. Uncle Peter as a character is therefore used as an allegory for the dark and troubling nature of war, and no one involved is left unscathed. For many, it meant death or a ruined life, others deep psychological trauma. He is representative of the thousands of men deeply damaged by the effects of war, whichever side of the fight they were. ...read more.

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