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Spies by Michael Frayn Worksheets

Using different narrative viewpoints

1) Frayn uses a mixture of:

Stephens present tense narration
His memories of his childhood, told in the first person
His observation of the young Stephen, told in the third person, as
though he is watching a film of his younger self.

Find a quotation as an example of each sort of narration and comment on it.

2) Why is the novel written in the first person? Consider the following ideas.

There is a sense of closeness: the reader knows this character well.

A unity of tone is achieved, which is related to the voice the author
establishes for the character.
There is the problem of a limited viewpoint: we are only told what the
narrator knows/ sees. This can be exploited for irony. In Spies this is in
turn limited by Stephens lack of understanding of what was happening
and his repression of distressing childhood memories.

3) When the person who is telling the story does not know all the facts, does
not remember all the facts or is concealing some of the facts, either from
themselves or the reader, they are known as an unreliable narrator. In
what ways is old Stephen an unreliable narrator? (See pages 3132 for

4) What is the effect of Stephen being an unreliable narrator? Is he an

unreliable narrator in both his modes, as a child and as an old man? 2007 7601.doc Page 1 of 3

Spies by Michael Frayn Worksheets

Looking at Chapter 2

1) In what ways is the setting different in the present from the way it was in
wartime? Create this table in your books / on paper and complete with

Second World War setting Present setting 50 years later

2) List the neighbours in the close and what we learn about each family. You
could do this in the form of a street map.

3) In Spies, the adult Stephen looks with detachment at his memories of his
former self. To show this detachment, he writes about him in the third
person. Find one quotation from Chapter 2 where he writes in the first
person about his adult self and one where he writes about the Stephen of old
in the third person and comment on the similarities and differences between

4) Another technique you need to be aware of is interior monologue: we hear

the thoughts of the narrator, stimulated by being in his old street, as he
takes us back into his childhood during the Second World War. In what ways
is this effective?

5) How does Frayn use language to explain the smooth transition from black
and white to colour?

And in the middle of it all, my friend Keith. The pictures no longer

monochrome, evidently, because now I can see the colours of the
belts. Keiths, also fastened with a metal snake curled into the shape
of an S, has two yellow bands on the black background, mine two
green bands. (page 15)
Spies copyright Michael Frayn, 2002

6) Reread pages 2829. How does Stephen use Thank you for having me as a

What about the adult Stephen? Explore the different layers of meaning and
possible different interpretations here.

7) Two motifs which have hooked us in are finally explained here:

The privet motif (pages 2931)
The six words uttered by Keith: My mother is a German spy (pages 31
Why are they left until the end of the chapter? Discuss the significance of
each revelation. 2007 7601.doc Page 2 of 3

Spies by Michael Frayn Worksheets

Looking at Chapter 6

1) Look carefully at the descriptions of the moonlight. What significance does

moonlight have?

2) Look at the section from pages 116118 that describes the meeting in the
dark when Stephen is seen by the man Mrs Hayward is helping. What
techniques are used to create the tense atmosphere?

Think about the following areas.

Conventions of the horror story.

Use of the senses, especially sound and touch. Can you find any blended
senses (synaesthesia)?
Sentence structure, punctuation, paragraph length and other linguistic

3) Look at the section from pages 118120, from The Close to heavily darned

What are the repercussions of Stephens excursion when he returns

What does his familys reaction to the state he is in reveal about his
relationship with Keith and his familys view of it?
How does Frayn make the sock sound poignant and why?

4) Look at the section from pages 120125. Keiths bullying of Stephen

becomes clearer here. How?

What techniques does Frayn employ to foreground this?

How does the sock contribute to solving the puzzle of who is hiding out?
How is the reader reminded of the confidence between Stephen and
Mrs Hayward?

5) Look at the section from pages 125133, the final section of the chapter
the boys once again go through the tunnel into the feral world, the liminal
space between total wildness and civilisation.

How does Frayn make this place sound unattractive and dangerous?
What do the boys do after passing the cottages? Why?
Comment on the description of the land beyond the cottages (pages 129
How do you account for the boys behaviour when they find the hideout?
How does Mr Hayward become involved and what does his behaviour
What does Mrs Haywards question Was it you two? reveal to the reader? 2007 7601.doc Page 3 of 3

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