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The second narrative voice is the old man first narrator reconstructing his memories of his childhood. The use of the third person to describe his childhood self indicates that he feels like a different person and helps to create the impression that he feels alienated from his childhood as it was such a long time ago. The third narrative voice employed by Frayn uses the first person present tense to depict Stephen as a child.
The use of first person allows the reader to have a better understanding of Stephen as a child and helps us to gain a closer insight into Stephen’s life at that time and it lets us share his feelings and thoughts. As well as that, it also makes it more personal and allows Frayn to include more firsthand observed detail and description, which enriches the story. The setting of this novel is in World War 2. This makes the title ‘Spies’ very appropriate as spying was considered a very topical issue in those days.
Also, spies were a key theme in many books and comics in the 1940s era, therefore it reflects the period of uncertainty as Britain were at war with Germany. The reader becomes spies as we try to figure out if Mrs. Hayward is actually a German spy or not. In addition to this, we also have to find out who the tramp really is and piece together the clues to Stephen’s real identity. In the same way that Stephen and Keith attempt to piece together the mystery of Mrs.
Hayward’s disappearances and her secret meetings, so does the older narrator as he tries to piece together his memories of that summer and its significance in his life. A sense of mystery is achieved at the beginning of the novel as Stephen’s memory is triggered by the scent of the privet. The ‘sweet and luring reek’ is an oxymoron used by Frayn to illustrate how powerful the vulgar smell is and also to show unsettledness of the narrator. The smell is a signal to show that he is still overwhelmed by unresolved issues from his past.
‘For a moment I’m a child again. ‘ This phrase has a dreamlike quality to it as the memory seems to bring old Stephen back to his childhood, which makes it sound surreal. It also indicates that the smell has awakened the narrator’s childhood memories. The reader at this point would question why a simple shrub could arouse such strong emotions; as a result, Frayn engages the reader’s attention as we want to discover why Stephen is suddenly troubled. In addition to this, mystery is sustained and the reader is left in suspense.