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Critical Issues Raised by the Novel.



Richard Hannay. As a first person narration our understanding of the novel involves an understanding of Richard Hannay himself, who he is, what he does, how he responds, why he does what he does. What do we know about him, and what do we learn about him? In terms of social status, his values and beliefs, his responses to the challenges thrown at him in the course of the narrative? What answers would you give to these questions? Here are some pointers:

 

The Enemy. Hannay's enemy is the mysterious 'Hawk'. What do we know about him? We know that he is the agent of Germany, and that he has, like Hannay, the ability to assume a number of disguises. What do you notice about the descriptions of him when Hannay meets him, p. 24, 76, or pp. 124-5. In the course of the novel he assumes various disguises, including that of Lord Alloa, (First Sea-Lord), the bald archaeologist, and the suburban gentleman. It may significant that the Hawk's ability to assume such disguises so well emphasizes the point that the 'Enemy' is to be found anywhere, or it may be that this ability to assume such disguises shows the "frightening interchangeability of British and German personalities" at this time. You might consider how credible an enemy the Hawk is. It is certainly worth noting the imagery that surrounds him: why is he called 'the Hawk'?

Patriotism and Englishness. The novel clearly has to articulate what Hannay is fighting for, in terms of values or a way of life. How is this constructed in the novel? You might look at the final chapter, (pp 116), where Hannay remarks "you couldn't find anything much more English than that". Alternatively, look at the comments on the British police and the forces of Law and order (p 38 and 77). One of the paradoxes of the novel is that Hannay's values oppose him to the 'Establishment' as it is represented by Marmaduke Jopley (p65), or the fact that Hannay can so readily fool the audience into believing that he is the Liberal Imperialist speaker (what does this say about British party politics?).

Games-playing. References to "playing the game" and "fair play" abound throughout the novel - are these significant? Consider the passages on p 15, p 16, p 18, p 27, p 70 and p 120. What do these tell you? Is it significant that Hannay sees things in terms of a "game"? Does it reveal something wider, about public school attitudes transferred into the world of real-politick?

Readership. Who is the novel designed to appeal to, in terms of class or gender? What would you cite as evidence for this appeal? What do you think the impact of the novel might have been, culturally and socially?One thing to bear in mind is the novel's use of point of view, and the ways in which we are encouraged to identify with Hannay and his values.

Narrative form and plot structure. The narrative is centred around the motif of the hunt, and the contest between hero and villain. Try to map out the structure of the novel as a series of diagrams, thinking of how formalist critics would approach the novel, and looking at characters as agents of the plot (what 'functions' do the different characters have within the plot? What is the central narrative 'problem' and how is it resolved?)

Ideology, Beliefs and Value. Finally, what values and ideologies does the plot endorse or refute, and how does the novel dramatise them? You might think of the cluster of values and beliefs represented in the character of Hannay himself - instrumental rationality, "service" of nation, self-reliance, "masculinity", Hannay's own status as both agent and amateur/outlaw, 'natural' cunning and calculation, etc. What do words like "bravery", "patriotism", "heroism" and "manliness" mean within the narrative? Does it strike you that particular points of view or considerations are omitted from the novel

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