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Consider Michael Frayn's presentation of Keith's Mother in the novel

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Introduction

Consider Frayn's Presentation of Keith's Mother in the Opening Chapters of the Novel Frayn presents Keith's mother from the viewpoint of Stephen, the narrator. The author uses both the present and the past tense throughout the novel, as well as shifting between the first and the third person narrative. Stephen returns to The Close as an old man, and discusses his younger self in the third person, (E.g. "She didn't speak to him personally,") as if he is detached from his own past, and is almost recalling things that happened to somebody other than himself. The idea of a person's past being foreign to them is a similar theme to one explored in "The Go-Between," when L.P. Hartley, the author, says, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." However some things are remembered in the first person: "She's sitting in the dust in front of me, weeping", which perhaps Frayn intends to involve the reader more personally and immediately. ...read more.

Middle

The housework is done by Mrs Elmsley, who is a hired daily help, and her most strenuous activity seems to be walking down the road to the post box and the shops, or to see her sister at Number Twelve (Auntie Dee). This description of a very composed, sophisticated mother contrasts with Stephen's own mother; "Would he perceived the grace and serenity of Keith's mother quite so clearly if his own hadn't spent most of the day in a faded apron, sighing and anxious?" and worrying about, "the filthy state of their room." Frayn perhaps uses this descriptive language to emphasise further the difference there is in social class between Stephen and Keith's families, of which Stephen is painfully aware. The reader sees that Keith's mother plays a maternal role in Stephen's life. Frayn says, "What he loved most at Keith's house was being invited to tea." We see that Stephen saw Keith's mother as a provider; "At once I taste the chocolate spread on the thick plank of bread... ...read more.

Conclusion

In this way, Keith's mother plays a role in Stephen's journey into adulthood; however she affects this journey in other ways too. As he is spying on her, he becomes increasingly aware of the secrets and responsibilities of the adult world. He follows her down "the tunnel," which is dark, dirty (significant, as Stephen has a fear of germs) and terrifying. Some interpret the tunnel as symbolising the path of adolescence, "This time there's no way out. I'm going to have to follow her. Through the tunnel. On my own." The tunnel is dark, foreboding and dangerous, therefore it is a test of bravery to go down it; a test where failure is not an option. "The never-ending returns of the high cries that Keith and Stephen uttered to test the echoes and show they weren't afraid, as they made one of their rare ventures through that long, low darkness." Stephen says that they ventured down the tunnel "to test our manhood," and it is almost as if Keith's mother unwittingly led Stephen down that tunnel when he became involved in the secrets in her adult world. ...read more.

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