Study Guide

The Luminaries Truth

By Eleanor Catton

Truth

Secrecy and lying are big topics in The Luminaries, but truth also gets a lot of airtime and consideration—and there's a lot of philosophizing about what the whole notion of "truth" actually means. Walter Moody feels like the truth is always subjective, but he's unwilling to admit that something can be "true" or "known" if you can't see it from all sides. However, people like Lydia think that something can be "known" or true even if you can't fully wrap your head or eyes around it—like a spirit, for example. It's unclear how open Walter ultimately is to the spirit world, since it's hard to examine that realm scientifically (and he's pretty analytical)…but anyway, these are the kinds of conversations and debates that go on regarding that whole "truth" subject.

Questions About Truth

  1. Does Walter Moody ultimately become open to the idea of being able to know or find truth in the unseen/spirit world? Or does he just totally drop that line of thinking and fail to come to a conclusion on it?
  2. Does Lydia Wells really believe that the spirit world can be known, or is that just part of her shtick? Does she make a compelling case for believing in forces that are beyond our control (e.g., the stars) and that are manipulating the "truths" of our future/current existence? Or is she just a fraud?
  3. Why do you think Catton never gives us the full "truth" behind some of the novel's events?
  4. Do we trust the narrator to tell us the truth? And if so, what does that mean to you? How about the characters? Who are the least and most trustworthy characters, and how do we know?

Chew on This

The novel sets us up without a clear protagonist to latch onto and prevents us from hearing the full "truth" behind the novel's events to draw our attention to the way in which truth is always subjective and dependent on one's position/perspective.

You can pretty much figure out what "truly" happened in every single mystery, even if it's technically left open-ended, which undermines any claims the novel might make to complicating traditional ideas of "truth."

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