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How Effectively Does Frayn Use Barbara Berrill in 'Spies'?

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How Effectively Does Frayn Use Barbara Berrill in 'Spies'? Michael Frayn uses the character of Barbara Berrill to a variety of purposes in the book 'Spies'. She is one of the key features to the themes of growing up and awakening views on adulthood and sexuality as well as providing Stephen with new evidence and theories as to what is going on, allowing us to see him interact with someone quite different from Keith, giving us perhaps a less biased and general view of occurrences in the close and also providing the book with some humour due to her blunt and matter-of-fact way of putting things and the way in which she acts as almost a bridge between the reader and Stephen, asking him the questions that perhaps we are asking ourselves. The obvious purpose of Barbara Berrill does seem to be her involvement in Stephen's blossoming understanding of the adult world. Being a year older than him, she is a little more perceptive of the things which haven't even really crossed Stephen's mind before, such as the possibility of parents having boyfriends and girlfriends. This is a good example of a time where Barbara clearly passes on some new ideas to Stephen, as although he is confused at first, the idea sticks with him throughout the book as he slowly begins to realise that Barbara is right. "'She's taking a message to Mrs. Tracey's boyfriend' Now I do turn to look at her, too uncomprehending to conceal it. ...read more.


I think again Frayn uses this to really push forward the fact that this sexual awakening and maturing which Stephen is going through is allowing him to see things a lot more clearly, for example saying "I see all kinds of things I never saw before, everywhere I look, now that the lamorna's in the air." I think that this is effective because Frayn uses the phrase "the lamorna's in the air" as if Lamorna is a scent, similar to the ideas of privet and other plant related senses which he references many times. The idea that all these feelings which Stephen is beginning to discover, very much triggered by Barbara Berrill and the name of her house, are all around him is very noteworthy, as it is something which he cannot escape from and from what we know already we can tell that the way in which the plants smell and look is significant to the way in which Stephen's feeling change. I think Lamorna, being associated with Barbara Berrill and her house, is likely to represent the scent of wild roses and all things 'girlish', and the fact that this is all around Stephen and "in the air" suggests that it is not something which he can hide from any more and therefore this is another way of showing how Barbara increases his awareness of the world. This can similarly be seen in the fact that he claims "I've found a value for X" when Barbara kisses him. ...read more.


I think that Frayn's use of Barbara as this kind of 'voice' for the reader makes a nice addition to the book as without these types of blunt observations and questions being posed to Stephen it would be easily possible for the reader to get frustrated and want their own questions answered. Using Barbara for this purpose was also a good idea as she gets straight to the point, and leaves Stephen wondering over what she says just enough to question what he thought before without giving the game away too quickly. Overall, I think that Frayn uses the character of Barbara Berrill in 'Spies' very effectively, for a lot of different purposes. Clearly she is a very active and important part in Stephen's growing up, from the exciting parts such as the rite of passage rituals of smoking and kissing, to the more mundane things which she is able to quite bluntly point out to Stephen and leave him thinking about. However she also plays many other smaller parts, perhaps to a lesser extent, such as her addition to the humour of the book, providing a welcome break and fresh view from the rest of what we hear, and also the way in which the reader can associate with what she says and use these meetings Stephen has with her to gain clues and interesting information about what is really going on in the close. Barbara is effective as a character in these ways and many more, both with her effect on Stephen and her influences on the general tone of the book. ?? ?? ?? ?? Harriet Blair 12 EM ...read more.

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