Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories Lies and Deceit

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Lies and Deceit

This small Southern town has more scandals that Olivia Pope can shake a stick at. But because of the narrator's close-but-removed quality, it can sometimes feel like the reader is being manipulated into, say, keeping an open mind (as when Miss Amelia may or may not have murdered Lymon), or assuming the worst, (as with Marvin Macy's crimes.)

Like rumors, scandals, and lies themselves, their common presence in The Ballad of the Sad Café seems to say something about the way cultures build myths and legends out of regular people's lives. In a way, rumors and lies are the way societies broadcast their values, prejudices, and quirks.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. The narrator seems very invested in letting us know the "good people" (Ballad.47) who believe the best about Miss Amelia are the minority. What does this say about how the narrator may want us to feel about minority versus majority opinion?
  2. How do the effects of the town rumors in Ballad compare to the effect Madame Zilensky's lies have on Mr. Brook?
  3. Is there any evidence that anyone besides Mr. Brook notices Madame Zilensky's lies?
  4. It's obvious to Martin that Emily lies to him about her drinking habits, hiding empty creme de menthe bottles in hatboxes. Does the act of lying signal something positive or negative for Emily's state?

Chew on This

The untrue rumors in Ballad's small town are authored by few, but perpetuated by many.

Madame Zilensky's pathological lying is so out-there that it has no real affect on anything in her life.

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