How does Frayn present ideas about growing up in 'Spies'?
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How does Frayn present ideas about growing up in Spies? In the novel Spies, the motifs of personal growth, growing up and childhood are all integral to the plotline. It could be said that besides the theme of memory, growing up is the most crucial theme of the novel. As a genre, Spies fits clearly into bildungsroman style, showing the importance of Stephen's personal development with relation to the storyline. Throughout Spies, Stephen shows a great deal of personal growth as a character, from his outlook on life, to the ways he interacts with other characters. Frayn expresses this through a variety of literary techniques. Spies' narrative style is set from two perspectives. Firstly, a reflective third person narrative from Stefan's perspective as an elderly man that is recalling childhood memories. Secondly, a more direct first person narrative which seems to be more the perspective of Stephen as a young child. The contrast in narrative allows for greater flexibility in showing the contrast between the more mature man, and his younger counterpart. In chapter 9 when Mrs Hayward appeals to Stephen for his help, the perspective switches in the middle of the chapter, which is also indicative of the thought process of the character at that point.
Characters such as Barbara Berrill and the Hardiment children provide aspects of comedy as to how they perceive the world, and how they are perceived by Stephen and the other children of the close. Barbara, being slightly older than Stephen, appears to have a more mature view on the world, yet it is shown how it is not necessarily correct, as when she claims 'lots of ladies have boyfriends while everyone's Daddies are away'. This shows a more romantic outlook on the world, biased by girls' magazines and entertainment predominately focused more towards love, relationships, and families, rather than war and machismo. Other instances include credence being given to Elizabeth Hardiment due to the fact that she wears glasses; with no other basis for the claim that she is more knowledgeable or intelligent than any of the other children. Frayn also makes frequent use of symbolism to imply aspects of personal growth or sexual awakening. On a large scale, the tunnel that both Mrs Hayward and Stephen pass through to get to the barns can be said to represent a grander theme of Stephen's transition from safety of childhood, to the more troubling nature of adulthood that Mrs Hayward frequents often.
As he begins to understand the meanings of the 'x' marks, he also begins to realise the childish nature of what he originally believed Mrs Hayward's secrets were about. By maturing enough to grasp the more romantic nature of 'x' marks, rather than the sinister, allows him to accept more the idea that Mrs Hayward's secret is of a more feminine and sexual nature than her being a German spy. Therefore, the ideas Frayn presents on the concept of growing up in Spies are largely in the use of symbolism and perspective switch, creating the varying levels of understanding for younger Stephen, and allowing the reader to understand the contrast between the thoughts and perspective of the younger character, versus the more elderly character reflecting. This also reinforces the overall theme of memory in the novel, as to have only one perspective throughout Spies would deny the reader to a whole level of the character's emotions, either the more analytical emotions expressed in reflective speech, or the more abrupt and immediate emotions of the character as he is dealing with the situations he is facing. It is the combination of the two that creates the level of effectiveness that Spies has as a novel.
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