Study Guide

One Whole and Perfect Day Versions of Reality

By Judith Clarke

Versions of Reality

These days […] Lily found her grandmother's companion unsettling. Could Nan—in the nicest possible way, of course—actually be a bit daffy? (1.16)

Hey, we kind of have to give Lily some credit. If you met an old lady on the street talking to an imaginary friend, you'd probably think she was a little daffy, too. Based on this, it's kind of fun—and relieving—to learn later in the book that Sef actually is real.

"It's the way you toss your hair back," Lily had informed him once, "that long bit that falls over your forehead […] You keep on doing it and doing it, as if you haven't got the strength. It makes you look like one of those nodding toys people keep in the backs of their cars. It makes you look lacking." (4.18)

We've already established that Lily's a bossy pants (see her analysis in the "Characters" section for details), and being a bossy pants, her perceptions of others might as well be reality. In the case of Lonnie, she's fully convinced that unless he breaks the hair-pushing habit (or just gets it cut), no girl will ever be into him. As we know, Lily ends up getting a little surprise.

Sef wasn't imaginary. Sef had been quite real once upon a time, the big girl who'd looked after May back there in the children's home: Sef in her long white nightdress sitting on the edge of May's bed, holding her hand and chasing the bad dreams away. (7.72)

If Lily knew what it was like to grow up with no family and to have your single friend taken away from you, she would probably have an imaginary friend, too. Learning that Sef is a living, breathing human being kind of teaches her this lesson.

Carol turned from them and fled across the oval, her hands clasped over her ears. Headed for the mirrors in the washroom, Lily guessed. "Her ears are the same size," she said to Tracy, and Molly Random said, "They are. Exactly the same size." […]

Tracy shrugged. "It was only a joke," she said. "She'll get over it." (16.57-58)

Thanks to Tracy Gilman's Mean Girl Syndrome, Carol Dewey will now go through life with Ear Dysmorphic Disorder. Way to go, Tracy. Sometimes, the things we intend as harmless jokes can actually alter someone's reality.

At once images of Lonnie swam into [Clara's] mind: his tall, gangly figure loping across the campus toward her, briefcase tucked under his arm. The way he had of tossing his head back—like a startled horse, she thought—to free his forehead of that stray lock of floppy, foolish hair. (17.1)

A-ha… there is a girl out there who thinks that "desperate" hair pushing habit is actually endearing. Take that, Lily.

All that happened was that Stan gave a guilty start and turned his head away. Then he got mad. Because why should he be feeling guilty? He hadn't done anything to be ashamed of; he wasn't the one who couldn't stick to things, who worried his mother and drove her to tears. (26.2)

Every argument has two sides, and Stan and Lonnie's is no exception. They both feel guilty, but they also both dismiss the guilt because they feel that it's the other person's fault. In reality, they're both partially to blame for the ax incident, and it takes seeing what happened from the other person's perspective to change their minds.

Now Lily could almost hear Tracy chuckle broadly. Then she'd dig Daniel in the ribs […] "She does all the housework, too […] Yucky old cooking and cleaning and stuff. Haven't you noticed how she smells of old dishwater, and…onions and boiled cabbage? If Lily Samson gets keen on you, do this!" Here Tracy would hold her nose. "And then, start running!" (27.15-17)

It's true that Lily's life isn't a cakewalk, but still—she's a little hard on herself in constructing this image of how other people see her. We don't doubt that Tracy's mean enough to say these things, but Lily's imagination seems to run away a bit, like she increasingly believes this scenario is real.

"Why do I have to be the one to make up, anyway?" Lonnie sulked back at her. "I'm not the one who lost his block, I'm not the one who—" (30.15)

Just like Stan, Lonnie's pretty quick with the "I'm not the one" statements. While both Lonnie and Stan each think the other is to blame, it's ultimately an issue of pride between the two of them. Want more? Read up on pride elsewhere in this section.

"We talked about her library, where she works, and recipes and stuff, that's all. And, and carpets. She wanted to know if you had a carpet in your room. Or if it was bare—"

"She's got a thing about that," Clara said. "She hates wooden floors. It's almost like […] almost like she's afraid of them." (32.39-40)

For Clara, her mom's aversion to hardwood floors is an irrational phobia. We, however, know the truth: that it actually represents her fear of loneliness and sadness for Clara.

"I kept dreaming, you know how you do, and there was this beautiful voice—"

"It's not beautiful," protested Lily, laughing, and Daniel insisted that it was. (40.73-74)

Daniel ultimately disproves everything that Lily thinks is true about herself, and it is a refreshing moment for both her and us. We can only hope that when she has that coffee date with him after play rehearsal, he'll do even more to continue changing her version of reality.