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Examine the presentation of the relationship between Keith and Stephen in Spies

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Introduction

Using page 50 as a starting point examine the presentation of the relationship between Keith and Stephen: The relationship between Keith and Stephen is one of the central parts of the book and provides much of the dynamism. Keith and Stephen are best friends and when Keith tells him that his mother is a "German Spy" the two of them embark on a mission to uncover her secrets. As the story progresses we see both of the characters develop and with this their relationship with each other. At the start of the book Frayn portrays a relatively harmless and normal relationship. As they follow Mrs Hayward, the "German spy", around it seems to be a childlike fantasy. The possibility of Keith's mother actually being a spy is fairly unbelievable and there is little suggestion of the secret that is later uncovered. Great plans for underground railways and overhead cableways are described but there is the admission that these plans of Keith's have not been "put into effect". On page 50 Frayn presents them as a comic duo as they try and figure out the elusive "x". The reader can plainly work out that the "x", which is happening "each month", is Mrs Hayward's period. ...read more.

Middle

Stephen is a weak boy and is highly dependant on Keith and this is exploited by Keith. Keith seems to be the main protagonist; he tells Stephen about his mother, he makes them look in her diary and he chooses to follow her. When they go to her study Stephen voices his reservations that her journal is "private" but Keith has no qualms about such matters and ignores his friend's comment. Stephen does not have the strength to assert any control over Keith and thus he complies with Keith's wishes. Stephen finds it hard to articulate himself and thus Keith provides what Stephen lacks. Keith seems to have somewhat of a moral deficit and thus his and Stephen's relationship is a dangerous one because Stephen is easily led. He is constantly making Stephen feel inferior whether it is verbally or by a disdainful silence. Keith castigates Stephen when he discovers that he hid his face in fear of the mysterious man. Even before Keith calls him a "baby" Stephen anticipates his reaction and feel ashamed. Keith's hypocrisy is revealed later on when he hides his face in fear. Stephen has internalised Keith's view of him and a lot of what he does out of shame. ...read more.

Conclusion

Keith might be perceived as a lonely and abused boy exerting dominance over Stephen as some form of self validation. From the start links are drawn between Keith and his father and as the true extent of his father's cruelty is realised so is Keith's. Keith goes from merely imitating his father's "half lidded" stair and adopting affectations like "old bean" to outright violence. Keith makes no attempt to stand up for himself and says, "My heart shrivels at the sound of his father's tone and his father's phrase, at my own hopelessness" The relationship between these two young boys is the stimulus of the plot. Keith and Stephen both begin a "game" but find themselves flung into the dangerous adult world. Together they cross the "frontier into another country altogether". At the end it seems to be Stephen who comes out of the ordeal the worse. The inferiority Stephen feels at the expense of Keith is what motivates him to uncover the secret. Frayn uses the relationship to present how appearances can be deceiving. At the start Frayn presents us a seemingly innocent and typical relationship. They are two boys wrapped up in their own fantasy world of German spies and conspiracy. However, the relationship transmutes and as the book progresses it becomes increasingly more dangerous. ...read more.

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