Study Guide

Code Name Verity Fear

By Elizabeth Wein


God, I tried hard last week. My God, I tried. But now I know I am a coward. After the ridiculous deal I made with SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden, I know I am a coward. (1.8.XI.43.2)

This is one of the first things Julie tells us about herself. How does this admission affect how readers interpret her actions and motivations?

What's in my future—a tin of kerosene poured down my throat and a match held to my lips? Scalpel and acid, like the Resistance boy who won't talk? My living skeleton packed up in a cattle wagon with two hundred desperate others, carted off God knows where, to die of thirst before we get there? No. I'm not traveling those roads. This is the easiest. The others are too frightening even to look down. (1.8.XI.43.11)

This description is as bad as any horror movie we've ever seen. Does Julie actually choose the easiest road? What makes her path easier or harder than that of others? You might say that there just aren't any easy roads in this scenario.

She gently pried the handle out of Maddie's trembling hand and held the ridiculous umbrella up over both their heads inside the bunker. Maddie took a drag on the offered cigarette. After a while of alternately biting her nails and smoking the borrowed cigarette down to a sliver of paper and ash, her hands stopped trembling. Maddie said hoarsely, "Thank you." (1.10.XI.43.106)

In this excerpt, Julie helps Maddie through her fear during an air raid. Is Julie any less afraid than Maddie? Why might that be? Either way, that's what friends are for.

"Are you scared of anything?" Maddie asked.

"Lots of things!"

"Name one."

"I can name ten."

"Go on, then." (1.10.XI.43.120-124)

This is where Maddie and Julie begin their lists of fears. Maddie thinks of Julie as impossibly brave, but sure enough, Julie has plenty she's afraid of as well.

Maddie waited. Queenie was right: doing something, focusing, took away the fear. (1.11.XI.43.51)

Take note, Shmoopsters, because this is a great trick for navigating situations that super freak you out. Just roll up your sleeves, and distract yourself with something else.

The whimpering Scot crept toward the cockpit, keeping low to the floor of the aircraft to avoid having to look out. Maddie glanced over her shoulder; she could tell her friend was manfully battling some demon or other.

"If you're scared, do something," Maddie shouted, not without irony. (1.16.XI.43.77-78)

This is one of the rare times in Julie and Maddie's friendship when Julie's the one who is afraid. So Maddie gives her right back the advice that Julie gave her: do something.

I want to update my list of "10 Things I Am Afraid Of." (1.18.XI.43.6)

If we were prisoners of the Gestapo, we'd definitely be updating our lists. Why might Julie choose to do this? What does she gain by telling her captors her fears?

"Not me," Maddie said. "I'm one of the Always Terrified Airwomen."

Jamie laughed. "You, terrified! My eye."

"I don't like guns," Maddie said. "Someday I'll be fired on in the air, and I'll go down in flames just because I'm too blooming scared to fly the plane." (1.18.XI.43.106-108)

Oh, foreshadowing. Hello, old friend. Maddie is later fired on in the air, and she lands the plane beautifully. Since she's totally under control the whole time, we think she sells herself a bit short here.

I said I was afraid of cold. It's true cold is uncomfortable but… not really something to be afraid of, is it? What are 10 things I am afraid of now? (2.3.11)

Now it's Maddie's turn to update her own list. What does she hope to gain by doing so? It might be interesting to consider this in comparison with Julie's decision to update her list.

I'm trying to remember what else I told Julie I was afraid of. Most of those "fears" we talked about that first day, in the canteen, were just so stupid. Getting old! It embarrasses me to think about it. The things I told her on our bicycle adventure were better. Dogs. Hah—that reminds me. (2.3.19)

Now that we think about it, our lists of fears has changed over time, too. What about yours? Have you ever been afraid of something that seems silly in retrospect?

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