Spies

by

Michael Frayn

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Stephen’s Father / Mr. Wheatley Character Analysis

Stephen’s father, a German immigrant to Britain, is the actual German spy in the novel (but working for the British side), though Stephen and Keith do not know this. Stephen describes his father as a dull man who works in an office and hardly talks. He is said to be found sitting at the dining room for hours with piles of papers and files, meeting with mysterious strangers, or dozing off silently in the living room armchair. He uses peculiar words like “coodle-moodle” and “schnick-schnack” that embarrass Stephen, but his odd vocabulary reflects his German origins. Although Stephen believes his father to be uninteresting, his involvement in Stephen’s life—his concern for Stephen when he is upset or when he comes home with a wound, for example—demonstrates that Mr. Wheatley is an especially caring father, particularly in comparison to Mr. Hayward.

Stephen’s Father / Mr. Wheatley Quotes in Spies

The Spies quotes below are all either spoken by Stephen’s Father / Mr. Wheatley or refer to Stephen’s Father / Mr. Wheatley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class Difference and Social Status Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Picador edition of Spies published in 2003.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Anyway,” I say, “my father’s a German spy, too.”…
“Well, he is," I say. “He has secret meetings with people who come to the house. They talk in a foreign language together. It's German. I've heard them.”

Related Characters: Stephen Wheatley (speaker), Stephen’s Father / Mr. Wheatley (speaker), Keith Hayward
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Spies LitChart as a printable PDF.
Spies PDF

Stephen’s Father / Mr. Wheatley Character Timeline in Spies

The timeline below shows where the character Stephen’s Father / Mr. Wheatley appears in Spies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Class Difference and Social Status Theme Icon
Memory and the Self Theme Icon
War, Paranoia, and Belonging Theme Icon
...was “encumbered with a brother,” for example. He specifically compares his father with Keith’s father. Stephen’s father was an unremarkable man, who spoke few words and worked a dull job (something to... (full context)
Class Difference and Social Status Theme Icon
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
War, Paranoia, and Belonging Theme Icon
...as Stephen himself. He mentions, in particular, the strange language that only his father used. Stephen’s father would call his and Geoff’s messy room a “coodle-moodle,” and whenever Stephen would say something... (full context)
Chapter 4
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
...Keith’s wild imaginings—prevent him from going out, especially since it is a Friday night and Stephen’s father is home. Stephen notes that there’s an unspoken rule in his family that they stay... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
Stephen’s father asks Stephen what he did at school, but instead of mentioning the teasing, Stephen says... (full context)
Class Difference and Social Status Theme Icon
War, Paranoia, and Belonging Theme Icon
Stephen’s father then asks if Stephen is getting along better with the other boys—if they’re not calling... (full context)
Class Difference and Social Status Theme Icon
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
Stephen’s father follows up with more questions about Stephen’s best friends and favorite teacher. Meanwhile, Stephen wonders... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
War, Paranoia, and Belonging Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
...feel bored and tired of listening to Keith order him around. Stephen playfully says that Stephen’s father , too, is a German spy, declaring that his father does have secret meetings with... (full context)
Chapter 6
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
War, Paranoia, and Belonging Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
...he could possibly be the leader, not Keith). As Stephen’s mother dries him off and Stephen’s father demands answers, Stephen feels that he has failed Keith because he could not turn around... (full context)
Chapter 9
Class Difference and Social Status Theme Icon
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
War, Paranoia, and Belonging Theme Icon
...parents try to comfort him. They ask him what’s wrong, but he won’t tell them. Stephen’s father suggests that his troubles might seem not so bad in the morning. Stephen goes to... (full context)
Chapter 10
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
War, Paranoia, and Belonging Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
...tries to hide his neck wound, but his parents notice it and are horrified. As Stephen’s father cleans the wound, Stephen cries, but he doesn’t answer any of their worried questions and... (full context)
Chapter 11
Memory and the Self Theme Icon
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
War, Paranoia, and Belonging Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
Stephen reveals that there were actually two spies in the Close: himself and his father. Stephen’s father was a German spy on the British side, offering economic intelligence and helping decode secret... (full context)