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Spies: Theme of Memory

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In what ways does Frayn present the theme of memory in the novel Spies? Frayn presents the theme of memory in Spies through the use of various techniques such as form and language. Frayn also uses a fallible narrator to show how memory can be fluid and unreliable. However Frayn's most important presentation of memory is that it is subject able to perception. The way adult Stefan remembers the events that took place, is different to way he saw them when it all happened, this is shown through the use of the second narrator Stephen- who is Stephen as I child (this is highlighted through the different names). Unreliable The narrator Stefan reconstructs his memory like a jigsaw puzzle, as if random pieces have been scattered all over his mind as the years have progressed. This is shown through his stream of consciousness at the beginning of the novel when he is initially trying to recognise the smell of the privet. The smell of the bush sparks off a random memory of '...Someone coughing trying not to be heard...' ...read more.


Stefan describes the smell of the privet as a 'sweet and luring reek', however something that reeks can not be sweet, and this juxtaposition demonstrates Stefan's ambivalent feelings because of his unclear memory. The fact that Stefan gets this feeling every year shows that memories can be haunting if they remain unresolved and not understood. Frayn is also showing that memories can be stimulated by our senses, in this case the smell of the privet. These points are also made when Stefan revisits the Lanes and 'once again ...hear[s] the...high cries that Keith and Stephen uttered'. This shows that it is not only a recurring memory for him that never really stopped, but also the fact that the sound of the trains triggered the memory of himself and Keith in the tunnels together links back to the Frayn's point of memory being tied to our sense. Perception Stefan struggles to remember most of what he thought he knew and what he understood as a child. He repeatedly poses rhetorical questions, questioning what he really understood, and the many contradictions he seems to find. ...read more.


He uses this paradox to try and explain that his memories are the same, but how he views the incidents are somehow different. The things that once scared him no longer do, for example when Stephen first realised that he was one day going to die a 'blind terror swept through [him]', but as he stood reminiscing on his childhood and the outcomes of the people he grew up with, he realises that he is not longer afraid, and that 'the imagination ages, like everything else. The intensity fades. You don't get as scared as you used to'. Stefan's perception has changed; his age brought wisdom has had a big impact on how he remembers events. This is shown when Stefan even has to ask himself, 'Is memory being overridden by hindsight once more?' Similarly, Frayn allows Stephen's imagination and at times blatant exaggeration to interfere with Stefan's memory of the story, to show that imagination and memory can not be separated, and that again, perception is central to deciphering the truth of memories. Frayn is also therefore questioning whether there is any truth in memory, and that its fluidness throws the nature of memory in unreliability. Word count:1,161 ?? ?? ?? ?? Rachael Burke L6Da 13/02/2008 1 ...read more.

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