Michael Frayne - Spies

    • Thread Starter

    i have been given an essay title of :
    How successful is chapter one as an introduction to spies?
    however i have no idea of what to say. i know to talk about how he introduces the themes characters and plot and such but i have no idea how to start it or what to say about it really. it would be really great if someone could help me.

    (Original post by lukh)
    i have been given an essay title of :
    How successful is chapter one as an introduction to spies?
    however i have no idea of what to say. i know to talk about how he introduces the themes characters and plot and such but i have no idea how to start it or what to say about it really. it would be really great if someone could help me.
    This was for IGCSE, so may be too basic. But here goes:

    Notes on Chapter One

    First impressions of Stephen and his job:

    Stephen is a translator. A good translator retells the meaning whilst remaining in the shadows – a good translation is one where you cannot tell that what you are reading is a translation. He is throughout the story translating his past life, the old Stephen – the strange language of mystery, emotion, and unknowns – into language understood by himself now and by the reader.A translator also has an emphasis on words. Certain words, such as liguster and lamorna, appear throughout the novel, and have various deeper meanings in Stephen's life. In many cases, he appears to be inarticulate or fails to be able to speak. This seems like a strange connection to his future role is a translator, given the importance of the ability to articulate thoughts and meaning from a foreign language.

    Fragmentary nature of Stephen's memories:

    The fragmentary nature of Stephen's memories is brought about by the interesting and somewhat rambling sentence structure, with a large amount of ellipses and hyphenated sub-clauses. There are areas where, mid-sentence, the narration will stop in order to cover another memory or idea related by a tenuous link.On page 5, seemingly separate thoughts are joined together by ellipses. There is not necessarily a grammatical link between them or a link in chronology or plot, simply a link of tenuous, fragmented memories that then appear later in the novel.

    Importance of language in this chapter.

    The language used in the first chapter is very important. The peculiar smell that keeps returning later in the novel is first encountered here under the name liguster. The name itself is notable for many reasons. Firstly, it has an interesting and peculiar sound, and there is a contrast between the short 'i' and the long 'u' sound. It could even possibly be described as vulgar-sounding, which draws ties with the various points in the novel in which he encounters it, such as when he has a sexual awakening of sorts with Barbara Berill in the privet bush.Secondly, it brings about links to other words, and does not sound dissimilar to the word 'disgust'. This continues to build the confused mesh of emotions encountered by Stephen in his adolescence. It also reflects the privet's sickly smell and possibly a sense of disgust that the Stephen who narrates the story to us perhaps feels about his earlier self. It also may link to the other words with which Stephen and Keith confuse it, such as 'privy' and 'private' (a word misspelled by Keith that may be symbolic to show the reader his imperfection and that perhaps he is not as intelligent as Stephen, or the reader, may have previously thought). Thirdly, it is a word that is not decisively German, thus not giving away the final plot twist.Also, the language that is used in this chapter gives little hints of the final twist: that Stephen's family is German. He asks himself whether his daughter 'was speaking English', for example. He also talks of 'cheap flights', which asks the reader to ponder why he would have to take a plane to arrive back in London. Yet, at the same time as being significant clues, they manage to be spread out around the chapter and in such inconspicuous forms that they are not enough alone to draw the reader to the conclusion that Stephen's family might be German.

    Stephen’s purpose in travelling back to England

    Stephen wants to travel back to England in order to relive the memories. He says he 'would like to think about all [his memories] at some length […] and to establish some order in it all'. He also talks of 'secrets', 'things that no-one said'. These, he claims, are things he 'should like to bring […] out into the daylight at last'. This subtle reference reflects a constant metaphorical struggle between light and dark that continues throughout the novel.

    Perhaps you could use some of these ideas to help you answer that question.
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