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Lies and Deceit

"You lost?"

"Naw. I'm making a phone call."

"Where do you live?"

"Just over there," Dicey said, pointing vaguely with her free hand.

"Go home and call from there. Run along now. If you were a girl, I'd walk you over, but—"

"Our phone's broken," Dicey said. "That's why my mom sent me here."

The guard shifted his flashlight, holding it like a club. "Phones don't break. How's a phone break?"

"We've got this dog that chews things up. Slippers, papers, you know. He chewed the phone. The cord, actually, but it's all the same—the phone's broken."

"Are you bulling me?"

"I wish I was."

"What's your name, kid?"


She felt funny, strange, making up lies as quickly and smoothly as if she'd been doing it all her life. (1.1.100-112)

Whoa. Dicey is one smooth operator when it comes to lying. Good thing, too, since she's going to need it for the rest of their journey.

"We've only got fifty-one cents, and around here that won't buy enough to feed even one of us. This is a ritzy area. So—we want some bakery goods, because they're cheapest, but not at full price. So, we've got to make that lady in there feel like giving us a lot for our money. So, we've got to make her feel sorry for us."

James nodded.

"I'll go tell her how hungry I am," Sammy volunteered. "No, you won't and have her start asking questions." Dicey snapped. (1.6.73-75)

Again, there's danger in telling the truth. If Sammy goes into the bakery and explains the situation he might get food, but the kids also might get found out. Dicey can't let that happen, so the lie is safer.

"You know the only thing you can count on, the only thing that's always true? It's the speed of light. Louis told me Einstein figured it out, 186,000 miles per second. That's the only sure thing. Everything else—changes." (1.6.217)

Louis is just so brilliant isn't he? He seems to be saying that truth is relative. What do lies matter in the grand scheme of things? But we know that can't quite be right. There are some things you shouldn't lie about, right?

"How about your parents?" Stewart asked. He was resting his head against the back of the chair, looking at her.

It wasn't that she couldn't lie to him. She could lie to anyone and make it good, if she had to—she'd certainly discovered that. But she didn't want to, not to him or to Windy. She wasn't going to lie to them, she decided. (1.7.136-137)

Here we see Dicey finally deciding to trust someone, and opening up a bit. Before, she had to be leery of outsiders, but she believes Windy will understand and not try to do anything to harm the kids. That's why she finally tells the truth.

"I thought Aunt Cilla was rich," James said. "This isn't a rich person's house."

"I must have been wrong about that," Dicey said.

"Momma said she was," James insisted.

"Then Momma was wrong."

"Do you think Momma's here?" Sammy asked. "If she's here why isn't she here?"

"I dunno," Dicey said. "It's Thursday, a working day, isn't it? So if she's got a job she'd be there, wouldn't she?"

"What about Aunt Cilla? Is she too old to work?" James asked.

"I don't know anything about her except what she wrote in her letters—and that wasn't true."

"Why would she lie?" James asked.

"I dunno," Dicey said. (1.9.5-14)

Why would Aunt Cilla lie? Dicey lies to protect her family, but it seems Aunt Cilla lied to make herself seem rich and important. Her lies cost the family, because Momma set out on this whole trip because she thought she might get help from Aunt Cilla. 

Dicey found herself ready to lie again. She could say they were visiting and the children had come to meet Aunt Cilla, and then later the Tillermans could go off and—and do what? If she lied, then she would get herself into a box. They had come such a long way. They had to have some kind of help from this cousin she'd never even heard of before. (That was strange too, that Aunt Cilla had never mentioned a daughter.) If Cousin Eunice didn't help them, they would have to go to the police. Dicey had to tell the truth. (1.9.74)

Again, Dicey has to tell the truth. She's probably right to suspect that she can't completely trust Cousin Eunice to help them. But she's also smart enough to know that she can't fib her way through this situation if they're going to live here.

"Do you mind hearing unpleasant truths, Dicey?"

"Yes. But I'd rather know the truth than not, if that's what you mean." (1.11.37-38)

The girl who's such a smooth liar would prefer to know the truth. While that might seem a little odd, it actually fits with Dicey. She needs to know what's really going on so she can make decisions—and she doesn't lie to be cruel; she lies to protect the people she loves.

"Dicey? Can I ask you something?"


"Tell the truth?"

"I always do."

"No, you don't," Sammy said.

Dicey understood him. "I'll tell the truth, Sammy, I promise." (2.3.12-17)

Oh, Sammy. He hits the nail on the head here. Dicey has kind of been lying to them throughout this trip, Sammy more than anyone. She didn't think that Momma would be in Bridgeport, but she told him she would be anyhow. She didn't want to take the kids to Crisfield, so she lied. Now, Sammy wants her to level with him. It's about time.

"They gotta come back," Mr. Rudyard said. "I got papers."

"What kind?"

"Legal papers."

"Show me," Will said.

"I've got them back home," Mr. Rudyard said.

Dicey looked at James. She saw Maybeth and Sammy standing in the gloom just within the tent entrance. They could still run, maybe. How did Will know what was true? How could he possibly know they were telling the truth? (2.6.153-158)

This is actually a pretty astute observation by Dicey. How could Will know that Mr. Rudyard wasn't just trying to get control of his rowdy foster kids? Will reads the situation and knows the truth: Mr. Rudyard is nothing but a big fat liar.

That night, the tightrope lady fell off the wire in the same way, and the audience gasped in the same way and applauded with the same enthusiasm when she climbed back up the tall ladder. Dicey realized then that the fall was part of the act. The fall was as flawless as all the rest of the steps. It was a fake. Like the lion on the poster and the glittering costumes that made everybody look beautiful. Like the way everyone laughed at Sammy because they thought he was making mistakes with the dogs, when it was really part of the act. Like the way Maybeth looked like a princess when she circled under the cascading lights of the carousel. Fake.

Dicey looked at James. He shrugged his shoulders at her. He didn't care. But Dicey did, she discovered. It wasn't that she minded, exactly. Not exactly—because she had done too much lying of her own to mind about this. But—they didn't need to lie, did they? (2.6.224-225)

Dicey is a little be disillusioned by the circus acts. Everything is fake and scripted. Sure, she doesn't have an issue with lying, but this is lying just for entertainment. It just doesn't sit right with her. 

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