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Spy Graham Greene Essay

I Spy Literary Analysis

Prehal Patel ENG 1302 Ms. Mach February 20, 2013 Literary Analysis “I Spy” by Graham Greene is a short story published in 1930 that takes place within a tobacco shop in England during World War 1. The story is regarding a young boy, Charlie Stowe, who has never before smoked a cigarette and therefore he decides to sneak into his father’s tobacco shop to steal a pack of cigarettes. Charlie hides in the shop when he sees his father comes back along with two men. He watches his father and the two men as they converse about confidential work. Charlie goes back to bed when his father and the two men leave the house.

In the story, Greene uses various literary devices such as character, imagery, and setting to represent many ideas. There are two main characters in the short story. The first main character is Charlie Stowe, a twelve year old boy who is teased by his classmates at school because he has never smoked a cigarette. That is why one night he sneaks downstairs to his father’s tobacco shop to get hold of a cigarette. He knows it is not the right thing to do, but he decides to do it anyways to try to lessen his schoolmates’ ridicule though all through the story he has an imperious fear of being caught.

However, the consequences of being caught trying to steal cigarettes are less than the consequences of not smoking at all for Charlie. The second main character of the story is Charlie’s father; he is described to be an ‘unreal wraith,’ not liked by his son. As the story continues, it becomes obvious that Mr. Stowe has been taken into custody for being a spy, and is being brought to the shop to grab his coat before he is led, seemingly, to trial and execution.

It is apparent, however, from Charlie’s recollections of his father revitalizing himself with proverbs and muttering to himself, that he actually may not have wanted to have the treacherous occupation that he did. Both of their society’s morals have been detached, Charlie’s by his schoolmates and Mr. Stowe, assumingly, by German spies coercing him to join their defenses. They both know they are doing wrong and, though they present their dread in their own way, they are scared nevertheless about what might happen if they don’t do their individual tasks.

The imagery illustrated in the story presents the central idea of fear. Throughout the narrative, light is represented as the danger of being caught. The candle in his mother’s room, the spotlights sweeping the windows of the shop, and the policeman’s flashlight all provide threats to Charlie’s mission of stealing a cigarette. And each time the light shines Charlie shies away from the light in fear. Also, the character of the shop itself lends to deception and fear. The phrase “smoke-filled room” usually stirs feelings of surreptitious secrets and deals, and this room is no different.

The anxiety is almost as perceptible as the smoke in this room of faint transactions. Imagery shows pillars of morality and fortitude through the two agents accompanying Mr. Stowe. They both had their identical suits, mackintoshes, bowlers, and these government agents, presumably from the British MI-5, represent those who do not have to make decisions for them and have their policy of morality laid before them. The setting of the story notably gives the story a secretive and dark aspect. Story takes place in Great Britain in the early twentieth century.

Britain at this time in history was coming off with the jingoism policy, implying that there is a vast amount of dedicated patriots living in the area. Charlie’s mother happens to be one of them. Therefore she has nothing but good to say about the queen, and nothing but bad to say about the Germans. Charlie’s father also validates the patriotism, saying that as soon as the neighbors find out he is a spy for Germany, they will break down his tobacco shop. The story takes place in a town off the coast, so there are spotlights are frequently sweeping across the sea searching for German boats.

The story also takes place in the middle of the night, which is known to be the darkest hour off the day. This creates a mysterious and fearful feel to the story. In conclusion, “I Spy” is a story about ones morals and fear of standing up for them. The main idea and themes lie within the character, imagery, and setting of the story. The theme comes across as dramatic events stimulate personal morals and children often inherit their parents’ traits for better or worse. In order to present these ideas Greene utilizes various literary devices throughout the story to give the narrative depth.

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As World War I raged about Europe, Great Britain took every measure available to ensure the war didn't spread into their own backyard. Their army was doing fine fighting elsewhere in France and Germany, but as William I proved in 1066, when you invade England, it's not the English that win. Britons lived in constant fear of a takeover by the German "huns," and this fear inspired Graham Greene to comment on morality in man in his short story, "I Spy." Greene explains, through the conflict that his protagonists suffer, that sometimes society's morals are artificially removed, for example in a time of war in which the object is to kill as many people as possible that aren't on your side. In these situations, people have to make their own…show more content…

It is clear, however, from Charlie's memories of his father fortifying himself with proverbs and muttering to himself, that he may not have wanted to hold his traitorous occupation. Both Charlie's and his father's society's morals have been removed, Charlie's by his schoolmates and Mr. Stowe, probably, by German spies coercing him to join their ranks. Both of them know they are doing wrong and, though they display their fear differently, are frightened nonetheless about what might happen if they don't do their respective tasks.

The imagery in "I Spy" also helps show the central idea of fear. Throughout the story, light is represented as a danger of being caught, and each time Charlie shies away from the light. The candle in his mother's room, the spotlights sweeping the windows of the shop, and the policeman's flashlight all provide threats to Charlie's mission of stealing a cigarette. In addition, the nature of the shop itself lends itself to intrigue and fear. The phrase "smoke-filled room" traditionally stirs feelings of clandestine deals and surreptitious secrets, and this room is no different. The apprehension is almost as visible as the smoke in this room of shadowy transactions. Imagery, in addition to showing lack of morals, contrasts it by showing pillars of morality and fortitude,