Study Guide

The Man in the High Castle Lies and Deceit

By Philip K. Dick

Lies and Deceit

"You would not have known," Baynes said, "because I do not in any physical way appear Jewish; I have had my nose altered, my large greasy pores made smaller, my skin chemically lightened, the shape of my skull changed. In short, physically I cannot be detected. I can and have often walked in the highest circles of Nazi society. No one will ever discover me. And—" He paused, standing close, very close to Lotze and speaking in a low voice which only Lotze could hear. "And there are others of us. Do you hear? We did not die. We still exist. We live on unseen." (3.125)

Baynes is lying here. (Though if you read some reviews online, you'll find people there who think he's telling the truth.) So he's lying about lying, which should get him some sort of lying award. But even if this sounds ridiculous, it fits with the Nazi fear of Jews as super-liars, so it's no wonder that Lotze takes him seriously. After all, how could Lotze ever discover the truth?

Using an elaborate variety of tools, materials, and machines, W-M Corporation turned out a constant flow of forgeries of pre-war American artifacts. These forgeries were cautiously but expertly fed into the wholesale art object market, to join the genuine objects collected throughout the continent. As in the stamp and coin business, no one could possibly estimate the percentage of forgeries in circulation. And no one—especially the dealers and the collectors themselves—wanted to. (4.31)

Again, there's almost no lie in this book that's all by itself. Here we have the W-M Corporation making forgeries. But one reason those forgeries aren't detected is because the dealers and collector don't want to find out. In a way, those people are lying to themselves. Could the forgeries work if the dealers were more skeptical?

From the wall he took the Smithsonian Institution's framed certificate; the paper and the lighter had cost him a fortune, but they were worth it—because they enabled him to prove that he was right, that the word "fake" meant nothing really, since the word "authentic" meant nothing really. (5.32)

One reason why people tell themselves certain things is because it makes their life easier. So when W-M says that "authentic" doesn't mean anything, maybe we should consider that he gets lots of profit out of this idea, since his company makes forgeries. The narrator even notes that the worth of this lighter-certificate is that it helps him prove this point. Is he right? Or does he just like making money from the forgeries?

"A violation of some petty ordinance," Mr. Tagomi said. "The Home Government and its bureaucratic officialdom. I grasp the situation. The old gentleman receives a stipend for his consultation with us, and he does not report it to his Pension Board. So we must not reveal his visit. They are only aware that he takes a vacation."

"You are a sophisticate," Mr. Baynes said. (5.122-3)

Tagomi seems used to the idea of lying to the government because there are some laws that aren't worth following. (In this case, because the government doesn't always help old people enough, Tagomi is willing to fudge the rules.) So, he's going to lie for good, in his mind.

I don't know why I didn't recognize the racial characteristics when I saw him. Evidently I'm easily deceived.

He decided, I'm simply not capable of deceit and that renders me helpless. Without law, I'd be at their mercy. He could have convinced me of anything. It's a form of hypnosis. They can control an entire society. (7.139-40)

Here's Childan repeating Nazi propaganda about Jews as super-deceivers. Besides the anti-Semitism (which reminds us what a jerk Childan is), we love his "I'm so vulnerable because I'm so honest." Of course, he's about to consider stealing jewelry from Ed McCarthy and to consider seducing Betty Kasoura. Yup, that's our super-honest Childan.

No doubt about it, he thought as he hung up the phone. The Colt .44 affair had shaken him considerably. He no longer viewed his stock with the same reverence. Bit of knowledge like that goes a long way. (9.114)

The end-point of this worry is Childan even doubting his own memory of FDR. Juliana may think the truth is awesome (see "Themes: Fate"), but Childan considers it very upsetting. He would've rather lived the lie.

"Naturally," the general said, "we are interested in maintaining a certain fiction. Mr. Baynes is representative for Tor-Am industries of Stockholm, purely businessman. And I am Shinjiro Yatabe."

Mr. Tagomi thought, And I am Tagomi. That part is so. (12.22-3)

Tagomi is the cutest. He'll soon think about lying in a different, more positive way (see below). Here he seems almost shocked by all the deceit going on around him; so his "I am Tagomi" sounds like he's trying to grab on to the one fact that he knows to be true. It can be very upsetting to be afloat on a sea of lies (how poetic of us).

"You seem—quite disappointed," Mr. Childan said.

"You notice." He was perturbed; had he let his inner world out for all to view? He shrugged. Certainly it was so. (14.35-6)

Tagomi and Childan are two characters who do a lot to hide their feelings. And can you blame Childan? When he starts to tell his real feelings, he comes off as a real jerk (see Chapter 7). But we get so caught up in the big lies in this book—all those fake identities and forged antiques—we might miss the little social lies that go on all the time (like answering "fine" when someone asks how you're doing).

I am a mask, concealing the real. Behind me, hidden, actuality goes on, safe from prying eyes. Odd, he thought. Vital sometimes to be merely cardboard front, like carton. Bit of satori there, if I could lay hold of it. Purpose in overall scheme of illusion, could we but fathom. (14.184-5)

After all the deceit he's just seen, Tagomi ends up not being upset about the lies. Rather, as he notes here, lies can be "Vital," can keep the truth safe. Is this the lesson of the book? Or is Tagomi lying to himself to make himself feel better?

"It's Chung Fu," Juliana said. "Inner Truth. I know without using the chart, too. And I know what it means."

Raising his head, Hawthorne scrutinized her. He had now an almost savage expression. "It means, does it, that my book is true?"

"Yes," she said.

With anger he said, "Germany and Japan lost the war?"

"Yes."

Hawthorne, then, closed the two volumes and rose to his feet; he said nothing. (15.134-9)

One of the best things about lies is that we can watch characters react to the truth. And generally speaking, very few characters seem to like the truth. Here's Juliana telling Hawthorn that his book was true. His reaction: "an almost savage expression" and speaking "with anger"—and then just getting up and not speaking at all. Truth doesn't seem to make characters happy in this book. Does that make truth sound good or bad?

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