Analysis of Mrs Hayward from the Novel ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn
How is the character of Mrs Hayward developed throughout the opening 3 chapter of Frayn’s ‘Spies’? Mrs Hayward is a contradictory character who is established through Stephen’s fragmented memory to be both a character of smiling perfection and a broken woman, sitting in the dust weeping. She is both the embodiment of a perfect British wartime wife and a character of suspicion; a spy, a traitor, the epitome of deceit and the focus of two young boys’ overzealous imagination.
When the reader is first introduced to this character it is through the listing of three declarative clauses in one of Stephen’s long, complex sentences. It is here that his fragmented memory is emphasised by the fragmented syntax where only glimpses of Mrs Hayward are shared with the reader. She is ‘in the long-lost green summer shade, her brown eyes sparkling, laughing at something Keith has written. ’ Through his use of the verbs ‘sparkling’ and ‘laughing’ Mrs Hayward is portrayed as a friendly and happy character who clearly takes delight from time spent with her child.
The use of the adjectives ‘blue’, ‘green’ and ‘long-lost’, help to coat the memory with a sense of vibrancy and suggest that these memories, and characters, are positive, fun and safe; they belong to a lost time that was happy. This is further reflected in the use of pathetic fallacy as the memory, and Mrs Hayward, are in the ‘summer shade’, a time of year and image associated with freedom and enjoyment, suggesting this is a character who is pleasantly remembered and much-liked by the narrator.
However, as Mrs Hayward is in the shade this could subtly suggest to the reader that there is an element of darkness to the character as she is shaded, half hidden and perhaps that her motivations and intentions are not always as clear as first imagined. The reflective, gentle tone of Mrs Hayward’s introduction is shattered by the use of the short simple sentence ‘Then the laughter’s gone. ’ indicating to the reader that the memory of her is tainted by events that are still unclear to the reader, events that leave her ‘sitting in the dust in front of [Stephen], weeping’.
The antithesis of ‘weeping’ and ‘laughing’ highlight to the reader how Mrs Hayward is a character who evokes feelings of both happiness and shame in Stephen, due to her respective actions and emotions. She is a fragmented and incomplete character who is portrayed to the audience through an anaphoric series of present tense memories, which make her actions, and consequent responses of the narrator, seem immediate and continual.
She is a character who evokes an emotional response in our narrator almost sixty years after unknown events have occurred, suggesting to the reader that she is going to be central to his journey down ‘memory lane’. When Mrs Hayward is next introduced to the reader it is through elderly Stephen’s third person account of what would have happened if young Stephen had asked Keith to play at his house for the afternoon.
This hypothetical pondering of the narrator occurs after a substantial amount of description has been dedicated to Keith’s home, room and father, suggesting to the reader that these male characters were the main objects of focus for young Stephen, Keith because he idolised his friend and his father because Stephen clearly feared him. Mrs Hayward then appears with her ‘perfectly plucked eyebrow’ while she is ‘reclining on a sofa’ and ‘looking up from her library book’. Frayn has positioned Mrs Hayward in the domestic sphere of the house and then used stative verbs to show her lack of movement and action.
This is further highlighted when Keith asks if he can go to Stephen’s house and Stephen knows ‘precisely’ that her response will be to tell Keith to ‘ask Daddy’. Here Mrs Hayward establishes herself as having a typical female role within a traditional patriarchal family. She is contemplative, rested and motherly, she does not make decisions; she is not the dominant person in the relationship and she defers decision-making to her male counterpart – not unlike Stephen in his childhood relationship with Keith.
Keith’s mother is referred to in the opening chapters using either the pronoun ‘Mrs Hayward’ or ‘Keith’s mother’, both name link her clearly to the males in her life, showing their dominance as her identity is always linked to them. She is not given her own name or identity and this emphasizes the position that she is in within the family; she is the wife and mother. She is surrounded with the semantic sphere of tranquility and passivity, she is ‘unhurried’, ‘calmly smiling’ ‘reclining’ or ‘looking’ and the only time we ee any use of dynamic verbs is when she is ‘shopping’ or fetching things for Aunt Dee. Mrs Hayward is clearly enclosed within the domestic sphere and has a clear role within her family, even her diary entries revolve around ‘Ted’s parents’, ‘Ted to OH dinner’, ‘K’s term starts’, ‘K’s sports day’. Each of these entries foregrounds one of the men in her life and shows their overwhelming importance to her daily routines; this is not unfamiliar of a war-time lady of leisure in Britain but it does highlight how she is trapped and isolated from both the world and society.
Mrs Hayward is clearly a character that on the surface is shrouded in an air of tranquility and domesticity. She is the image of perfection and is clearly held in an idiolised position, along with everything associated with Keith, according to Stephen and both his adult and child-like perspective. She is a character who appears rested and calm but underneath this facade there is a secret that she is keeping, it may not be that she is a German Spy like the young boys think but all is clearly not as it seems and Stephen’s ‘perfect’ account of her suggests in itself that maybe she is too good to be true.