Study Guide

The Lightning Thief Versions of Reality

By Rick Riordan

Versions of Reality

Chapter 1

If you're a normal kid, reading this because you think it's fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened. (1.4)

From the beginning of this story, we readers are involved in and made away of the versions of reality that are at play. Here, Percy tells us that there are different ways we can interpret and understand this story. We can be like all of those humans along the way who interpret Percy's run-in with gods and monsters as the work of a "troubled" kid with serious issues. Or we can choose to believe that what we are telling us is true. It's almost as though he's saying, "OK, readers, you can either be really narrow-minded, or you can open your eyes and really see what's going on here." It's like reverse-psychology too, because of course we want to see what's really going on. So, Percy almost helps us become believers in the gods.

Chapter 2

"His imagination," Mr. Brunner insisted. "The Mist over the students and staff will be enough to convince him of that." (2.33)

Why do Mr. Brunner and Grover wait so long to tell Percy that he is a half-blood? It seems kind of cruel to let him believe that his mind is playing tricks on him, making him think that he hallucinated Mrs. Dobbs and killing Mrs. Dobbs. Once Percy gets to Camp Half-Blood, they don't waste any time telling him he needs to open up his mind and understand that, just because humans see things one way doesn't mean there aren't other ways of seeing them. For a kid who has been made to believe that he hallucinates things like Mrs. Dobbs and one-eyed men in trench coats, it's no wonder it takes him a while to get used to being a demi-god.

Chapter 3

"Maybe if you hurry with that seven-layer dip…And maybe if the kid apologizes for interrupting my poker game." (3.66)

Smelly Gabe certainly has different versions of reality. He blames Percy for everything, even for things he didn't do. In this case, Smelly Gabe interrupts his own poker game to make Percy give him money. Gabe rewrites history, so to speak. So, who is to say that mortals don't have different versions of reality? Are there any other examples of moments when mortals rewrite history in a similar way?

I was too shocked to register that he'd just cursed in Ancient Greek, and I'd understood him perfectly. I was too shocked to wonder how Grover had gotten here by himself in the middle of the night. Because Grover didn't have his pants on—and where his legs should be…where his legs should be… (3.138)

Sometimes Percy is too distracted by things (scary things) going on around him to realize that he already exists in another version of reality. He doesn't notice things like the fact that he can understand Ancient Greek at first. The poor guy has been labeled as "troubled" all his life for noticing abnormal events and occurrences, and he has to learn how to actively look for and seek out these events and occurrences really quickly.

That night I had a vivid dream.

It was storming on the beach, and two beautiful animals, a white horse and golden eagle, were trying to kill each other at the edge of the surf. The eagle swooped down and slashed the horse's muzzle with its huge talons. The horse reared up and kicked at the eagle's wings. As they fought, the ground rumbled, and a monstrous voice chuckled somewhere beneath the earth, goading the animals to fight harder. (3.124)

Dreams are super-important in The Lightning Thief. Here, Percy dreams of Poseidon's symbol (the horse) and Zeus's symbol (the eagle) fighting, helping him to understand what exactly is going on over on Mount Olympus. While the dream is just a dream, and the horse and eagle are just symbols, we know that they are telling Percy something important about things going on right now on Mount Olympus. The dream world seems to be another version of reality in this novel.

During third grade, a man in a black trench coat had stalked me on the playground. When the teachers threatened to call the police, he went away growling, but no one believed me when I told them that under his broad-brimmed hat, the man only had one eye, right in the middle of his head.

Before that -- a really early memory. I was in preschool, and a teacher accidentally put me down for a nap in a cot that a snake had slithered into. My mom screamed when she came to pick me up and found me playing with a limp, scaly rope I'd somehow managed to strangle to death with my meaty toddler hands. (3.112-113)

Imagine being a kid who sees unordinary things all the time, but never having people believe you when you tell them what you've seen. That's enough to make a person good and loopy, and it's also enough to make a person really lonely. Sometimes seeing things a different way means being excluded from a group or community that you belong to.

Chapter 4
Grover Underwood

"The less you knew, the fewer monsters you'd attract," Grover said, like that should be perfectly obvious. "We put Mist over the humans' eyes. We hoped you'd think the Kindly One was a hallucination. But it was no good. You started to realize who you are." (4.22)

How confusing it must be for Percy to be a demi-god who doesn't know he's a demi-god. Especially when his innate powers can't help but show themselves from time to time (like when Clarisse ends up in the fountain in the front of the NYC museum). Compare the way Chiron and Grover handle Percy's knowing about his godlike powers to the way Dumbledore and Hagrid help Harry Potter understand that he is a wizard in The Harry Potter series.

Chapter 17

"There you have it, America." Barbara Walters turned to the camera. "A man torn apart. An adolescent boy with serious issues. Let me show you, again, the last known photo of this troubled young fugitive, taken a week ago in Denver." (17.96)

It's funny that the mortal world chooses to see Percy as a fugitive and only later changes their minds. The fact that Barbara Walters reports on Percy shows us that he is national news, a subject of national concern. He's big news. What does the fact that humans choose to see Percy as a fugitive from the beginning tell us about humans and how they see the world? Could you say that Smelly Gabe creates his own "Mist" that he throws over the eyes of America?

Percy Jackson

"Yes. Read The Iliad. It's full of references to the stuff. Whenever divine or monstrous elements mix with the mortal world, they generate Mist, which obscures the vision of humans. You will see things just as they are, being a half-blood, but humans will interpret things quite differently. Remarkable, really, the lengths to which humans will go to fit things into their version of reality." (10.62)

Perhaps demi-gods like Percy have the toughest job. They have to exist in both the mortal and non-mortal world, and they have to understand the way in which their actions might be interpreted (in two very different ways) by both mortals and humans. That's enough to stress a person out!

"Who says he's seeing this place the way we're seeing it? Humans see what they want to see. You're very stubborn—er, persistent, that way?"

Even when they get to the Underworld, Percy still seems to have a hard time understanding that humans understand things in different ways. Grover calls Percy "stubborn," but we have to remember that Percy has only known that he is a half-blood for two weeks. Cut the guy some slack!

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