Relationship between Stephen and Keith Essay
Relationship between Stephen and Keith
From the beginning the audience learn that there is a sense of hierarchy in Keith and Stephens’ relationship, that Stephen is ever more aware of “even then, of my incomprehensible good fortune in being Keith’s friend” even as a child. Such a friendship is conveyed through the hierarchy and is significant in the development of Stephens’ character, and this is inherent from Chapter two beginning with the comparison Stephen makes of himself in relation to Keith.
However it is important to remember that this high regard which Stephen does hold is implied through Frayn’s presentation proves that his perception is unreliable. The twin narrative in spies represents the same person at two different stages in his life. This idea introduces uncertainty because the narrator constantly questions himself and therefore as the audience it is open to interpretation as to whether all the details we are presented are entirely accurate with Stephen and Keith’s changing relationship.
The relationship of these children can be paralleled to the journey the narrator embarks on because it is his childhood described at “frightening, half-understood promises of life” that he needs to revisit and he same way there is a journey of this secret, similarly Frayn displays a journey in the relationship with Stephen as Keith. The relationship between Stephen and Keith is first exposed in chapter two when Stephen repeatedly uses the word “special” which gives the audience a good idea of Keith status in the eyes of Stephens.
Even though we are never told how Keith see Stephen they way he act towards him shows no resemblance of Stephen seen as “special” from the viewpoint of Keith. This is further conveyed through Stephen’s inferiority and gratitude he gives Keith in believing everything he says: “with my mouth slightly open, as I’ve done so many times before, waiting to find out what comes next. ” Stephen believes everything Keith says to be true, he doesn’t even for a moment doubt the lies that pour out of his mouth, but instead envies him even more for Keith’s “unending good fortune”.
But in the same paragraph Frayn juxtaposes “admiring jealousy” conveying a sense of a symmetrical novel because earlier on in the play the older Stephen introduces contradictions in phrases: “Everything is as it was… yet everything has changed”, could reflect uncertainty. In this case uncertainty may be that although Stephen thinks highly of the fact that Keith thought of such a good game, he is envious because he knows its not true but cannot say anything to him because of his inferiority.
Either way the narrator is not perhaps entirely accurate, but it could be just Stephen’s naivety. The hierarchy is presented in terms of comparison between Stephen as Keith. It is not in a competitive way, rather in envy because little Stephen is intensely aware that Stephen is better off that him even from “socially colour coded for ease of reference”. But Frayn also presents the relationship as more mentally in the mind of little Stephen and the way Keith treats him than anything else because his interpretations are only based in his head from what they are in reality.
For the other characters don’t see the way that Stephen and Keith see: “the officer corps in our two- man army”. Furthermore characters like Barbara Berrill don’t see what Stephen sees in Keith because they know “he’s so stuck up. Everyone except [Stephen] hates him”. For example the idea of Stephen acting as a disciple towards Keith is only in their little games, which is why Frayn presents the games as humorous to show the symbolism they mean to Stephen in reality are non-existent.
It also emphasises the innocence of their relationship by the way in which the boys embark on the game on spying Mrs Hayward: “I can see all kinds of interesting new possibilities opening up”. Chapter three opens more up about the relationship between Stephen and Keith. The audience know how gullible Stephen is in everything Keith says: “The corner of Keith’s mouth registers an almost imperceptible moment of superiority. I remember how often I’ve been humiliated by him like this is the past. ” This reveals more about their relationship and how it is slowly changing.
Stephens carries on by saying that “things start as a game, and then they turn into a test, which I fail”. Before Stephen would have been in denial and not admit that he has been humiliated or failed. Now Stephen begins to recall how extremely unpleasant Keith is to Stephen. There is one way, for Stephen is looking up to Keith, while Keith looks down upon Stephen. Again religious imagery is associated with Keith to show how Stephen still associates him on a godly status as “God the father” and himself as a disciple who “uttered the words and became so”.
Frayn presents their relationship through Stephen’s relationship with others to help the audience in having a greater understanding. Stephen does not have friends at school; he is a victim of both teachers and peers who taunt him by his name “Wheatley”, which further highlights the vulnerability of his relationship with Keith as he is pushed even further into the hands of Keith. It is part of his experiences that at school that cause him to feel inferior to others around especially Keith and his eternal adulation for him and unquestioning belief.
Whilst the way Keith is presented to interact with others and how he is influenced by others affects the presentation of the relationship between the two boys. Keith is an only child and his relationship with his fathers and the way he acts towards him is mirrored in the relationship between Keith and Stephen. In chapter four Keith uses the same words as his father “Go home if you’re bored, old bean” which Stephen is quick notice as “His father’s voice, and another of his father’s faces.
” The condescending tone Keith uses towards Stephen has rubbed onto him, a quality his father has. Whilst the fact that Barbara Berrill and everyone “really hates him” because he is so “stuck up” shows that Stephen is weak propels the silence and anxiety he has which allows Keith to dominate in their relationship. Even though it is Stephen who realises where Mrs Hayward is going in Chapter 6 “in a state of excitement”, it is Keith who “reminds me that he’s still the leader of this expedition”.
However there is a hint in the changing relationship between Keith and Stephen because now that Stephen complains of “pretending to believe all the things Keith tells [him]. I’m sick of being bossed around all the time”. This suggests that it won’t be look before Stephen acts upon his emotions. This idea of coming of age and with that change in relationship is accentuated towards the end of chapter three when Frayn introduces Barbara Berrill through Stephen’s eyes.
He notices her curls and that he can see her knickers and implies that she will have an affect later on in the novel. Moreover, the changing relationship is demonstrated through Keith’s actions to signify other things that will change about Keith. Whilst this is the first time Stephen is without Keith in the “privet” suggesting he is becoming less dependant on “the officer corps”. Frayn also presents Stephen as not only weak, but in a state of denial about Keith’s mistakes, as he feels this is a reflection on him too.
This shows their inextricable attachment to each other, but on different levels toward each other. Any betrayal on Stephens’s part is seen as the betrayal of Jesus from Judas. Stephen didn’t want to lie about the spelling mistake as he wanted to “spare Keith’s shame, but no words emerge through the biscuit. ” This is a conformation of Stephens’s denial of Keith’s spelling as he doesn’t want to undermine his authority. It will spoil the glory of Keith which rub off on Stephen. It would diminish his own image.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 13 July 2017
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