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What is the importance of the title in Spies?

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Introduction

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TITLE IN SPIES? The title is key to the book. The word itself takes on multiple meanings each of which underpins certain key themes and ideas within the book. Our perception of what the word connotes within the books shifts as the story progresses. The main plot begins with two boys playing an innocent game of spying. Like Briony in Atonement what they see not only affects them but the people they are spying upon. Spying itself is the portal through which Stephen partially steps and is partially dragged through into the adult world. At the start of the book the word connotes the fantastical game Keith and Stephen are playing. They embark upon a seemingly innocent adventure which the reader can easily relate to their own childhood experiences. The game is instigated by Keith pivotal proclamation, "My mother is a German Spy" Stefan places a lot of emphasis when saying, in retrospect, that the, "Rest of our lives was determined in that one brief moment" The reader doubts the authenticity of Keith's statement and the game takes on comic proportions as the two intrepid adventurers mimic the rituals of wartime in their pursuit of the "German Spy". For them war is something exhilarating and they wish to join the "saint-like" ranks of Uncle Peter. ...read more.

Middle

Despite the warnings Stephen ventures out at night in an effort to be heroic. When he goes outside someone sees him and he tries to hide in fear. Keith later criticises Stephen for being a "baby" but Keith is all talk and little substance and hides in a similar situation. When Keith and Stephen find the German's hideout the reader realises that this game is anything but innocent. The game has slowly progresses into something far removed from a Boy's Own Adventure. They savagely try to frighten the German in a vicious expression of their perceived superiority. The seemingly weak and indecisive Stephen mimics the cruel actions of his friend. Stephen shows a sadistic pleasure in asserting himself, "I can't wait to see the comical terror on the old man's face" He is able to justify what he does because, to him, the German is sub human. This classification is eerily similar to Adolf Hitler's own classification of certain racial groups as "untermenschen". The boys are almost animalistic and the reader realises the true horrors a child can be capable of. A similar affect is produced by William Golding's "Lord of the Flies". They are no longer just "spies". The irony is that this was no German but in fact the exact opposite of what Stephen perceived a German to be -Uncle Peter. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is the Germans whom he describes being bombed by Uncle Peter as the two worlds collide; he is not necessarily criticising Uncle Peter, he is illustrating one of the many absurdities of war. Germany was that "far-off nearby land" at the time: geographically close but at the time they mentally seemed worlds apart. Distinctions that seemed so easy as a child have been ripped to shreds and Stephen is left to pick up the pieces. So, who are the "spies" the title is referring to? It could be Keith and Stephen who embark upon an innocent game of "spies". It could be Barbara Berrill who herself spies upon the boy's not so "privet" hideout. Or maybe the mysterious man who looks through people's window during the blackout. Or it could be Stephen's dad, the only true "German spy" of the book. Stefan himself is spying upon the foreign territory of the past. They are all "spies" in different senses of the word and in plural the title refers to them all. Or is it intended to be interpreted as a verb? The reader can hold these different definitions of the word and accept that they are all in someway true. This is what Stephen has been doing through a lot of the book, in a form of doublethink, holding contradictory ideas in his head and accepting that they are all in some way true. ?? ?? ?? ?? Fleur Clarke L6 ...read more.

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