Study Guide

The Luminaries Lies and Deceit

By Eleanor Catton

Lies and Deceit

The Luminaries has several intertwined mysteries, so lies and deceit are kind of its bread and butter. And thank goodness—if the characters weren't so lousy at telling the truth, the mysteries couldn't have dragged on nearly as long as they do. The book actually ends up keeping some secrets from us as readers, too—in the case of certain mysteries (e.g., what happened to Emery Staines for nearly two weeks), we don't actually find out exactly what happened. It's okay that the book keeps a few secrets from us, though, since it drives home the book's persistent message that absolute truth is pretty darn hard to come by (see "Truth" for more on that).

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. What do you make of the story Emery tells the court about what happened during his absence? Why do you think he lies? You'd think that everyone would be tired of dealing with the fallout from lying—so why does everyone go along with this final monster of a deceit?
  2. What do you think Moody ends up believing about the "truth" of what he saw on the Godspeed—or about the spiritual world in general? Does he come over to Lydia's view that normal people can interact with and "know" spirits?
  3. Why do you think Catton keeps secrets from the reader—for example, when she delays our knowledge about a particular event, or denies us access to the full story entirely?

Chew on This

Although it provides us with the solution to some of its mysteries, the novel ultimately keeps quite a few secrets to remind the reader that s/he should be focusing on relationships and interpersonal dynamics, not "truth." Also, because of the supernatural elements, there are just certain things that can't be explained.

If the characters had just told the truth, as they knew it, more often than not things would have worked out better. So, the novel actually suggests that trying to tell the truth—and by that, we mean "what happened" as far as you can explain it— is the way to go.

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