Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Lies and Deceit

By Nancy Farmer

Lies and Deceit

In The House of the Scorpion, everyone but Matt seems to be in on a secret. Even when that secret is revealed to Matt, he's still in the dark about a lot of other things, and he remains in the dark only because of the atmosphere of lying and deceit that El Patrón has created in Opium. There are all kinds of lies in Opium – ones that are total secrets (like Tom's parentage) and others that are open secrets (like Matt's being a clone). These secrets are kept secret because they are threats to El Patrón's power, and also because they are painful to acknowledge. Growing up in such an environment means that facing the truth is a hard lesson for Matt to learn. But he definitely learns it, with the help of Esperanza's shockingly truthful book, A History of Opium. Our hunch is that when Matt returns to set things right in his home country, he'll need to expose all the secrets that allowed El Patrón to have total control for so long.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. How does María's mother try to fight back against El Patrón's lies? Is she successful?
  2. Would you describe Matt as an honest character overall? Is he ever dishonest?
  3. In the novel, do you think keeping a secret and lying are one and the same? In other words, when Celia neglects to tell Matt he's a clone until she absolutely has to, do you consider this a lie? Was she right to withhold this information?
  4. How do you think Matt feels when he discovers that he is a clone, after being kept in the dark? And how do you think he feels when he discovers that he's destined for death in order to keep El Patrón alive? In other words, how do all these secrets and lies actually impact the characters?

Chew on This

Matt deliberately blinds himself from certain truths about El Patrón, Opium, and his own nature because they are too difficult to handle.

Matt doesn't learn the value of the truth until he is on his own and fighting for survival in Aztlán.   

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