Explore the ways in which Frayn presents the character of Keith in Spies.
Frayn presents the character of Keith in Spies through the protagonist Stephen’s recollection of their childhood adventures as best friends. Keith is shown as aware and confident in his knowledge and status, with an imagination so seemingly limitless to the point of violence. Despite this, Frayn evokes sympathy from the reader by portraying Keith for what he truly is: a young boy who uses the spying game as a means of escape from what appears a normal, but harsh upbringing.
Frayn presents Keith in relation to Stephen, within the context of their friendship. Through their contrasting characteristics and family backgrounds their personalities are created. Frayn’s use of Stephen as a subservient yet contented friend highlights Keith’s dominance: “He [Keith] was the leader, and I was the led.. He was the officer corps… I was the Other Ranks, and grateful to be so.” Frayn’s use of repeated sentence structure emphasises the divide in status of the two. The relationship is presented as balanced by both Stephen and Keith’s contentedness of the power imbalance. Stephen is ‘grateful’ to follow Keith, who enjoys being leader. Keith’s dominance and power over Stephen is made evident, especially as Frayn presents Keith, in Stephen’s eyes, as somewhat of a god: “One single heroic deed, to lay at Keith’s feet in the morning.” This image that is portrayed is that of a sacrifice, an offering to compensate for what Stephen feels are his inadequacies, and his betrayal of Keith’s trust.
Frayn also makes it evident that Keith’s assumed superiority above other children comes from his awareness of his status in society. Again Frayn uses Stephen’s memory as a framework to subtly inform the reader of Keith’s social status. In Stephen’s memory they are ‘socially colour-coded-’ Keith’s ‘yellow and black’ uniform immediately identifies him as coming from the ‘right’ school. Keith does not talk to other...
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