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Discuss the Implicit Suggestion of a Class Hierarchy as Revealed in Pages 1 to 25 of Spies.

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Introduction

Discuss the Implicit Suggestion of a Class Hierarchy as Revealed in Pages 1 to 25 of "Spies". The opening chapter of "Spies" by Michael Frayn is host to an implicit suggestion of the wartime class hierarchy. The second chapter of the book opens with the description of the place that the main character, Stephen used to live and with the simple quote "the same old quite, sweet, dull ordinariness" and the reference to the "close" conjures images of the still thriving middle class, British snobbery. Frayn portrays an ordered world as he runs through descriptions of the houses creating a sense of uniformity for example he refers to "the endless clacking of Mr Sheldon's shears". This tells the reader that people in his area are house-proud which, incidentally, makes Stephen's family's differences stand out starkly. Stephen introduces his house as part of "the only semi-detached pair in the close" and the affect of this is that an instant stigma is placed onto Stephen; he is socially below the others in his area. ...read more.

Middle

Stephen here has cheap, grubby shoes and in contrast, Keith has expensive, neat shoes giving off an unmissable air of middle class precision of image that sets Keith above Stephen in the close hierarchy. The difference even continues to the uniformity of the plain socks that boys of the period wore; Frayn writes, "One of his long grey socks has slipped down his leg" in reference to Stephen, on the other hand Keith's are "neatly pulled up to half an inch below his knees". This image, and the use of the precise measurements, shows that Keith is a "proper" ordered little boy, suitable for the middle class society. Even Stephen's attempts cannot seem to save him from his lowered status, whilst he visits the Hayward's house he "pulls up his sagging socks". The use of the alliteration of the "s" sound is silly and comedic giving the reader the impression that of course Stephen can't escape his social standing. Inevitably we are shown that "the sock with the failed garter slipped down", a sad image that reinforces Stephen's inferiority when put in the perfect haven of the Hayward's house. ...read more.

Conclusion

Keith holds the authority in his and Stephen's relationship, much like one of an army regiment. Keith's superiority is governed by "intellectual and imaginative superiority" something that also seems to imply a hierarchy in the close. Even Keith's possessions seem to be more "right" compared to Stephen. For example Stephen's narrative informs the reader that " he has a special sports model" and that "Green's the right colour for a bicycle, just as it's the wrong one for a belt", this tells us Keith clearly knows his place in the preset hierarchy, he is the observer. In conclusion I can clearly see that Frayn has highlighted the class hierarchy in the beginning of the book. It sets the scene for the book with its' connotations of suburban snobbery yet it also brings an air of mystery to the book when the strangeness of Stephen's and Keith's relationship is brought to light. After all, Frayn has written, "The Haywards were impeccable. And yet they tolerated Stephen!" summing up the odd feel of the combination. ...read more.

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