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Explore the Ways Frayn Uses Multiple Genre in His Novel 'Spies'.

  • Date Submitted: 03/04/2014 12:27 PM
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Explore the ways Frayn uses multiple genre in his novel 'Spies'.

Throughout 'Spies', Frayn introduces us to several key genres. As the reader we are unsure which of these is entirely central to the novel; however, three prominent genres seem to arise. We see 'Spies' primarily as a mystery novel, with the unfolding plot of the "German spy", the truths that are yet to be found and the questions that are left unanswered. 'Spies' is also presented as a 'coming-of-age' novel: Stephen's conflicting ideas of childhood and the adult world and his own journey into adolescence. Finally, the novel is portrayed as a work of philosophy: the 'novel of ideas'. Concepts relating to this genre are conveyed through Frayn's portrayal of the ambiguity of memory, the confusion of illusion and reality, and perception.

The concept of mystery is introduced to the reader in the very opening chapter of 'Spies', and remains with us throughout the novel. Stefan hints of a "secret thing...still waiting to be discovered", but we are given no idea of what this might be; questions are left unanswered and it seems that even the narrator himself does not know quite why this "familiar breath of sweetness" is a "cue for such powerful feelings". The mystery here is why the smell of the Liguster and the memories Stefan begins to reveal have affected him so much that he feels he must return to "bring them out into the daylight at last".

Frayn uses stylistic and linguistic devices to highlight the mystery genre at several points throughout 'Spies'. As the mystery of the "German spy" commences and unfolds, unsettled thoughts begin to fabricate in the young Stephen's mind: "the dark of the moon...I can feel it surrounding me, pressing against my eyes...". The ellipses here hint to the reader that there is something still being left unexplained; a continuity of thought that we are unable to reach. Frayn uses this technique several times in the novel, as thoughts, concepts and ideas begin to form...


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