The theme of Spies is the gulf between the child's world and the adult world. The child lacks the experience to interpret adult behaviour to understand what is really happening or to judge the implications of his interaction with adults.
One of the ways Frayn illustrates Stephen and Keith’s relationship is through the use of binary opposition. Keith at the beginning of the novel is portrayed as coming from a wealthy family and has experienced many privileges. In Stephens memory they are ‘socially colour coded’ Keith’s ‘yellow and black’ uniform identifies him as coming from the ‘right’ school. When Frayn describes Keith’s school attire, Keith wears ‘brown leather sandals’ portraying to the reader that he comes from a wealthy family. This is ironic because although Keith’s education would be considered better then Stephens, throughout the novel in several cases Stephen is much more intellectual and perceptive. This is evident when the reader can see that Stephen becomes more understanding and begins to question the Hayward family, especially when he sees Mrs Hayward ‘hurrying’ past which is abnormal behaviour for Mrs Hayward who is normally ‘composed’. Stephen also observes that she has ‘green slime’ on her shoulder and hands. In both these instances Stephen has realised this abnormality however Keith remains oblivious. The reader expects Keith to realise these things as Mrs Hayward is his mother and expects him to pick up to detect her strange behaviour. Therefore Frayn could be implying that society is judged purely on their background. The Wheatley family are looked down upon purely because they live in the only ‘semi detached’ house in the Close. Whereas Keith’s family are more wealthy and have a much higher social status. However Frayn describes Stephens uniform in a completely opposite way as his tennis shoes are ‘grubby’. This shows the reader the difference in social class between the young boys, and hints to the reader that this is one of the reasons why Stephen admires Kevin so much. The adjective ‘grubby’ emphasises the poverty that Stephen lives in. Another way Frayn presents binary opposition is through the description of Keith and Stephens houses, Stephen describes his house as ‘embarrassing’ and the flowers are ‘promiscuous’. Both words are very emotive and implies the insecurity Stephen feels about his social status in the Close and feels how everyone looks down on the Wheatley family. Stephen feels the society judges him for the appearance of his house and social status and feels ‘shameful’ that his house is the only ‘semi-detached’ house in the Close. However Stephens description of the Hayward’s house is completely different as he walks along the ‘red brick path’ Stephen isn’t able to criticise the Hayward’s house and comes to the conclusion that everything is ‘perfection’.
Another way Frayn represents the relationship between Stephen and Keith is through the admiration that Stephen has towards Keith. When the younger Stephen is describing their friendship he refers to himself as Keith’s ‘disciple’. The noun suggests how Stephen worshipped Keith and also has religious connotations which shows Stephen thought Keith to be ‘god-like’. Despite Stephens honour and respect towards Keith Frayn undercuts this admiration with references to Stephens fathers scathing remarks towards Keith ‘Did Keith teach you that’. Barbara Berrill also had a very low opinion of Keith as she describes him as ‘horrible.’ Frayn uses others characters perspective on Keith to emphasise the naivety of Stephen and how Keith has manipulated him into thinking he is in control. Stephen is blinded by Keiths friendship that he is unable to see how he abuses him and takes advantage. An example of Stephens trust is when he takes the blame for Keith because he swore under an ‘oath’. Stephen also believed it was his ‘good fortune’ being Keith’s best friend and