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"If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." He snapped the Bible closed with a flourish and held it high in the air. (3.17)
Quoting the Bible is a nice touch. After all, it stresses the importance of telling the truth and not lying to people. But we'd also like to point out that this is just a tactic. The lawyer isn't really interested in the truth, or what the Bible says about it for that matter; he's more interested in getting Gracie thrown in jail and hanged. Truth is just a façade he's using to do that.
"I'll let you in on our destination before we commence— the Kingdom of Truth. Few who set out on the journey toward the Kingdom of Truth ever reach their destination. But today, gentlemen, I can promise you, that is where we shall arrive." (3.7)
In Ben's first trial, the opposing lawyer, Carter Ames, makes a big show of finding the truth. He even comes up with a cool catchphrase about it ("Kingdom of Truth"), but he's not fooling anybody. Ben points out that Carter hides behind the truth to get the jury to like him and support his side of the case.
"You and I are living in two different marriages, Ben. It's the truth, a sad truth. I'll admit it," said Meg. (11.2)
Ouch. When Meg lowers the book on Ben about their marriage, he's shocked. It seems like he was completely unaware that his wife felt this way. Notice how Meg makes sure to say this is the truth as a way of lessening the blow. No one is calling her a liar, but it helps make her case.
"What in hell is the truth— the absolute truth? And what can a president do to stop these awful things from happening?" (14.12)
Leave it to President Roosevelt to question what truth is. In some ways, the whole book is an exploration of this question. Ben is searching for it on his mission; Abraham and his friends want the truth of their unfair treatment to be acknowledged and changed. Yet the White Raiders don't seem to think their account of events is even factual. So what is truth? We'll leave that one to you, Shmoopers.
Besides being funny, every word he spoke was the absolute truth. The bigger the lies he pretended to tell, the more truthful the stories became. (56.9)
When Ben and Elizabeth go to see Mark Twain, Ben makes this observation his favorite author. Even though Twain writes fiction, Ben thinks about his tales as truthful because they speak about real-life situations and emotions. This suggests that truth is about more than what technically takes place.
"What are you doing?" I said. "You can't hang him, he might be telling the truth!" I felt my whole body shaking. "Why don't you look into what he says?" (79.4)
When the KKK wants to hang a man for supposedly lying about selling land, Ben is outraged. He's not sure who is telling the truth about the land, but it doesn't matter because no one should just kill someone because of a lie.
"That is right, gentlemen of the jury. A bedtime story. We have two versions being told here. Mr. Curtis has told you a fairy story, and I have told you the truth. As God above knows it to be!" (104.31)
Loophole Lewis manages to poke holes in Jonah and Ben's case, not because it's weak, but because he's used to spinning the truth to his advantage. He makes sure to call their side a tall tale so everyone recognizes the fiction in it. Truth can be distorted and manipulated until people aren't sure what's the truth and what's a lie.
In that steamy courtroom, ripe with the smell of sweat and Rose of Sharon eau de toilette, the good people of the Eudora Quarters took the stand and swore to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. And they did. And then Maxwell Lewis ripped them apart. (112.13)
During the trial, truth stands out. Why? For one thing, everyone is told to tell the truth on the stand. For another, Lewis is lying through his teeth left and right. It's sad for Ben to realize that the truth doesn't matter as much as a believable, well-told story in the courtroom.
"Oh, Moody. Those jurors have lived here their whole lives. They don't care who's telling the truth and who's lying! The phony warrant? Some of the jurors were probably down at the town hall when Eversman was writing it up." (115.25)
Jonah appreciates that Moody wants to help them, but he points out that she's misunderstanding things. After she lies on the stand to help their case, Jonah tells her that no one even cares about the truth of what happened that night, so there's no use in trying to uncover it or share it with anyone.
"The people who wash your clothes and pick your crops can tell the truth. The truth is not based on how much money you have. It's based on…the truth." (122.21).
During Lewis's summation, Ben is outraged. Not only does the guy lie, he insinuates that only rich, white people can tell the truth or even know the difference between the truth and a lie. Even though his response is only in his head, he tells us that truth is objective, end of discussion.
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