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Analysis of How Mr Hayward is Presented in The Novel Spies by Michael Frayn

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The meta-fiction novel ‘Spies’ was set in the 1940’s and written in 2002 by the author Michael Frayn. It revolves around the events and behaviours in relation to World War II. Frayn’s family’s financial situation turned for the worse after his mother’s death; he has experienced upper class and lower class lifestyles. Since the book was set during a war, an obvious theme in ‘Spies’ was masculinity, men who were able to fight in the war were considered as masculine; men who didn’t join the war felt emasculated and were discriminated against. The narration in this novel was indistinct and untrustworthy as it constantly switches from a young and innocent 12-year-old Steven to an unsure and befuddled 70-year-old Stefan. The main antagonist in the novel Mr Hayward is presented through Frayn’s use of language techniques, theme and dialogue.

Mr Hayward’s superiority is presented through Frayn’s use of dialogue. Mr Hayward uses the phrase “old bean” often, although it is a phrase of affection or a term of endearment, he creates an unnecessarily frightening and terrifying touch to the term. His sarcastic use of polite language like “old bean” is condescending and exhibits dominance. An additional example of Mr Hayward’s supremacy is from his threats to Keith, demonstrating their contrast of power. Mr Hayward accuses Keith of “taking other people’s things without permission- that’s stealing. You know that. Saying you didn’t when you did that’s lying. Yes?” His use of declarative sentences emanates a menacing aura, nobody dares to stand up to him or contest his ludicrous accusations, indicating that they are all petrified of Mr Hayward. The verb “stealing” is a severe and punishable offense, Mr Hayward is hoping to intimidate Keith by threatening him. Frayn portrays the austere control Mr Hayward has over Keith by accusing Keith of misconduct. Frayn’s use of dialogue depicts Mr Hayward’s disciplinarian nature shown through his manipulation of the imperative “Wash that stuff off your hands, dry them properly” directed towards Keith. The quote suggests that Mr Hayward has rules in the house that Keith and Mrs Hayward must follow. We can also deduce that punishments are mandatory whenever mistakes were made. By using an imperative, Mr Hayward is expecting fulfilment without objections and failure. They have to obey to his orders so that he is able to uphold his authority over the household. Mr Hayward communicates in short sentences. He is straight to the point and he seldom addresses the person he’s speaking to. This is because of the absence of respect he has for others; he considers himself to be strong and in control hence the others who are inferior to him don’t deserve personal recognition. Even so, Mr Hayward needs Keith and Mrs Hayward because there would be no one for him to forcefully imply his rules upon if they were gone. They are important to him: he wants to feel virile and the only approach is through oppressing others and appearing to be fearsome and daunting. Keith also had to “ask his father for permission to walk on the lawn, or lay out railway track on the paths.” This indicates that Keith is an obedient underling of Mr Hayward, even something as infinitesimal as walking on the lawn requires his permission. Also, this displays Mr Hayward’s obsession with control: everything has to be under his strict control.

An epitome of a bully and a tyrant to others, Mr Hayward implements his egotistical wishes on others and denies their decision-making abilities. He uses his direct and straightforward way of speaking: “Basket, then.” He asks Stephen for the basket without addressing him nor asking politely – being impolite towards Stephen. When he receives no riposte from Stephen, he enunciates once more “Basket. On the bench, old chap.” Mr Hayward uses the affectionate term “old chap” sarcastically to generate the opposite effect. Mr Hayward realises the disappearance of the basket, he instinctively blames Keith for taking the basket without permission. However, it wasn’t Keith who took the basket, he was being accused of something he didn’t do. He ordered Stephen to place the basket on the bench but Stephen doesn’t comply. There is a slight indication that Mr Hayward will be resorting to other procedures to express his acrimony if Stephen isn’t obeying to his edicts when he articulates that he’s “not going to say it again, old bean.” Again, his scintillating usage of affectionate terms serves to frighten Stephen so that he hands the basket to Mr Hayward via consternation. Mr Hayward might be pretending to be amiable to Stephen so that Mr Hayward’s desires will be actualized. He intimidates others to implement his demands through trepidation and not by force because it exhibits his total power over others.

Mr Hayward is a prominent persona in ‘Spies’, to the extent that he is perceived as an idol or a deity to Stephen and Keith. Mr Hayward’s activities around the house are described as “making perfection yet more perfect.” Inferring from the exaggeration, Stephen has an impression that everything that the Haywards carries out are considered as unsurpassed perfection. Stephen’s perspective that the Haywards are ‘perfect’ may cause polarities to the novel, his view of the story will be divergent from other characters who disagree with Stephen’s mentality. Mr Hayward’s garage is a “wonderful private kingdom”, the exaggeration and metaphor of the phrase elucidates that Mr Hayward is royalty and one of power. It proposes that he is a King because of his ownership of a kingdom. The adjective “private” also proves that Mr Hayward is affluent due to the fact that only the wealthy had private ownership of land at the time. Keith “smiles his father’s thin smile” and uses his father’s phrase “old bean” because he looks up to Mr Hayward, everything and anything he does is an example or a model for Keith to follow. Keith even seizes power over Stephen near the finale of the novel because he wants to be comparable to Mr Hayward.

Mr Hayward is a villainous and oppressive character in the novel ‘Spies’. Mr Hayward: a quintessential tyrant, a pessimistic idol, disciplinarian and superior figure. He governs over others to compensate for not fighting in World War II. He strives for full control over his surroundings and the people around him to make him feel masculine and tough. Mr Hayward doesn’t talk about his feelings because the notion of ‘Masculinity’ is all about strength and aggressiveness, being emotionally open and expressive is classified as a feminine trait. As a result of his fixed concept of masculinity which manifests machismo, he is unapproachable and lacks a genuine camaraderie; he is an isolated character. Frayn utilises different methods and techniques to present Mr Hayward as a character as well as apprising the readers of the paramount social issue of the 1940’s: machismo.

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Analysis Of How Mr Hayward Is Presented In The Novel Spies By Michael Frayn. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 24, 2021, from
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