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The 39 Steps: Richard Hannay as an individual in conflict with society

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Murray Reid The 39 Steps The 39 Steps: Richard Hannay as an individual in conflict with society "The 39 Steps" a classic thriller by John Buchan, successfully portrays the story of an individual in conflict with society. Therefore, the main theme I will focus on is that of an individual in conflict with society, and will refer to point of view, characterisation, and setting. "The 39 Steps" is one of the most popular thrillers ever written. It has also been filmed many times, each has been a hit. The opening of the novel is set in Richard Hannay, the protagonist's apartment, where a strange man is attacked, but, before he dies, he tells Hannay that he knows a fatal secret. The police think that Hannay is the killer, so Hannay needs to find the actual murderers and discover the secret of the 39 steps. "The 39 steps" is told through the eyes of Richard Hannay. This is an effective way of telling the story as the reader can relate to his character and symphathise with him throughout the book. Due to this first person narrative, through the eyes of Hannay, the reader sides with him, and not with the spies or the police. ...read more.


Society becomes his enemy, as he knows he cannot trust anyone. This conflict becomes a main part of the story as it means there is no one who will believe him. Thus, Hannay is in solitude, and is an individual in conflict with society. Hannay is the protagonist, the reader likes him, and therefore supports him and hopes that he will outrun his followers. Hannay has many tricks to prevaricate capture. For instance, he can take on various different identities from a "spectacled roadman" to a "milkman". The reader also admires his bravery, for instance when he blows himself out of a cellar to flee from the Germans, and when his conflict with society ends, he confronts his enemies. A symbol of Hannays vulnerability is that of a circling monoplane, it is searching for him, and seems to always be following. "I did not like this espionage from the air" emphasises the reality that Hannay always had the threat of being caught. The way in which we feel towards the other characters is also a main aspect of the story. With every story there is normally a villain the reader does not like. The head of the German spies is that character, he is only featured for a short time, but the anger and ...read more.


This gives the sense that he is being hunted down. Hannay manages to fend for himself in the Scottish wilderness. This is surprising given that he is being pursued the entire time, he can't trust any one in society, the German monoplane is constantly following, and the fact that he is always on the move. Without Buchan's descriptive writing, the novel could have never have been what it was. It was as if the setting as well as society was an enemy against Hannay. Although, Hannay always managed to find a way out of danger because of the setting, and because he was always one step ahead of the others. There is an ironic, yet not surprising twist, that society later sides with Hannay. The theme also changes. Society is against against the Germans, and the police side with Hannay. The novel of "The 39 steps" by John Buchan develops the theme of an individual in conflict with society. The first person narrative, the characters, and the setting all contribute to this theme. A number of key themes are successfully conveyed in this very thrilling novel. Through his characterisation of protagonist Hannay, and clever use of setting, and point of view, John Buchan has, in "The 39 Steps", given me various reasons to read more of his novels. ...read more.

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