Stephen Wheatley

Topics: Bullying

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The way Michael Frayn presents the relationship between Stephen Wheatley and Keith Hayward changes throughout the novel. Towards the beginning of the play the two boys are good friends, but Keith is the leader and Stephen is the led. There is a big difference in the social status of the two boys.

Keith goes to the ‘right local preparatory school’ and wears yellow and black which are the ‘right’ colours whereas Stephen wears green and black and goes to the ‘wrong’ school. The difference in Keith and Stephen’s social status reflects on their relationship. ‘He was the officer corps in our two man army. I was the other ranks- and grateful to be so. This shows that Stephen understands the difference between him and his friend and he is satisfied with this position.

Stephen is allowed to go to Keith’s house but the Haywards do not treat him as well as they could and this could be because Stephen and his family have a low status in the close and are not respected as much. Stephen is ‘shameful’ of his house. The Wheatleys house is described as being surrounded by ‘unidentified shrubs’ that were never tended by Stephens’s father. Although the Wheatleys house was in a bad condition what made it worse was the partnership with the Pinchers, which made the house look even worse.

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Michael Frayn contrasts the Wheatleys’ house with the Haywards. The Haywards house is described as having ‘well oiled hinges’ and a ‘neat red brick path that cures through the rose beds.’ This clearly shows the difference in social class, due to this Stephen is not treated as fairly as he should be. This unjust treatment to Stephen is shown when Keith’s mother does not directly speak to Stephen but instead addresses him and Keith ‘collectively as you two.’ Whereas it’s possible that Keith’s father had ‘simply never noticed Stephen’s existence.’There are other differences between the Wheatleys and the Haywards. Stephen’s father is mostly absent on business while Keith’s father is usually at home. Stephen is a poor student and he is insecure. Keith is neat, excels at school and confidently plans their games of childish adventure. Keith is a posh only child, Stephen a younger brother ashamed of his family. Keith’s uncle peter is in the RAF and his father killed some Germans with his ‘bayonet’ but Stephen wonders ‘why no one in the whole of his family is in the RAF?’ This shows that Stephen looks up to the Haywards and almost envies them. He feels that they are the perfect family and longs to be like them. Here Michael Frayn is showing the nature of perception, how a child views things. The truth about the Haywards is that Keith’s father is a rigid, cold taskmaster who beats Keith with a cane and Keith’s mother conceals s secret, but not the one the boys suspect.The theme of dominance and bullying is clearly presented in the play by Stephen and Keith’s relationship. Keith bullies Stephen and Stephen feels so worthless that he allows Keith to bully him. When Stephen is ‘bored’ of the game he shows that he is sick of being ‘bossed around all the time.’ The theme of bullying is presented in the novel again when Keith cuts Stephen’s throat. This shows that Keith has turned out to be like his father who also used the same method of torture with Keith’s mother that is why ‘in the heat of summer she has taken to wearing that cravat pinned high around her neck’ Keith’s behaviour continues to reflect the effect of Keith’s father on Keith. This is shown when Keith uses the same phrase as his father ‘old bean’ .The theme of bullying is also shown when Keith’s father says ‘I don’t like bullying. I’ve seen too much of it in my lifetime. This shows that Stephens father also has experienced bullying and does not want his son to as well. Towards the beginning of the plat the two boys were good friends until Keith announced his mother is a German spy. After that point the boys drifted apart.The games that the boys played before spying on Keith’s mother were not serious. They knew that it will end, for example the mystery about Mr Gort. Keith and Stephen thought he was a murderer and they did take it seriously enough to tell Mr McAfee but they knew it was just a game. In all the games that Stephen and Keith played, Keith was the leader and Stephen was the led. The game of spying on Keith’s mother never seemed to end and it endangered her efforts and so she put an end to Stephen and Keith’s game by preventing Keith from playing with Stephen. However Stephen hoped that Keith would return to their ‘privet’ hideout and they would continue to record their observations in their ‘secrit’ book, but it never happened, but one day Keith returned to the hideout. He appeared really different and Stephen almost feared him, knowing what was to come. The punishment of breaking the oath. Stephen feels that Keith has changed. ‘His eyes look into mine. They’re the eyes of a stranger.’ It is at this point when the relationship between the two boys ends. All those games, the lemon barley and chocolate spread was no more.The style that Frayn uses is that he respects the young Stephen’s point of view, without claiming authority over it. He uses the third person to explain aspects of the novel. From which the young Stephen cannot explain at that point. The sense of smell, the taste of lemon barely, the taste of the chocolate spread is a style that Frayn uses to recreate the memory and make it real. Frayn never reveals Stephens age, to allow the reader to predict the age of Stephen based on Stephens ignorance. All these techniques help Frayn present the relationship between Keith and Stephen clearly and effectively.

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Stephen Wheatley. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Stephen Wheatley
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