Study Guide

Cadence Sinclair Eastman in We Were Liars

By E. Lockhart

Cadence Sinclair Eastman

When a narrator has amnesia from a traumatic brain injury, it's safe to say she's unreliable. Cadence is trying her best, though. She wants to remember what happened to her; she's just not sure whose version of events she can believe.

Poor Little Rich Girl

Just because you have money doesn't mean your life is perfect. Sure, Cadence can have anything she wants—well, except for her dad. And a day without a headache. And family members who get along. And a mom who doesn't hover. And a boyfriend she can depend on. But hey, at least she's surrounded by all kinds of ivory goose statues.

These statues, by the way, are just a few of the things Cadence's mom and aunts fight over. As long as her patrician family can maintain appearances, "It doesn't matter if divorce shreds the muscles of our hearts so that they will hardly beat without a struggle. It doesn't matter if trust-fund money is running out; if credit card bills go unpaid on the kitchen counter. It doesn't matter if there's a cluster of pill bottles on the bedside table" (1.6). Yeah, these people really care about the way things look.

Cadence identifies herself as a liar, and it's obvious she was raised to obscure the truth in the name of appearances. The Sinclair sisters are in complete denial about the fact that they're living above their means. Rather than facing reality, they fight each other for a bigger chunk of inheritance money. Cadence has just about had it, though, and her desire to live authentically in the face of so much artifice leads her to take "desperate measures." (Understatement.)

Heathcliff, It's Me, Cathy

When Cadence falls in love with Gat, she begins to see the world differently. She says, "he doesn't like to let us off easy. He wants to make us think—even when we don't feel like thinking" (7.23). The Liars accept Gat into their ranks, but he'll never be a Sinclair. When he starts talking about starving people in India, Cadence tells him, "You remind us that we're selfish bastards. You're not one of us, that way" (7.54). Gat may be right, but no one likes to be told they're wrong.

The parallels with Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights are clear. Gat is Heathcliff, the brute who educates himself but will always be an outsider, and Cadence is Catherine, the rebellious society girl.

Gat might be "her person," as Cadence calls him, but his insight only penetrates so far into her consciousness. When he says of Beechwood, "everyone's white except me, Ginny, and Paolo," she asks, "Who are Ginny and Paolo?" (39.14) He has to tell her they're the staff—the only staff on her private island, who have "worked here summer after summer" (39.16). And so while Cadence allows her Heathcliff to open her eyes to how other people live, she does so only so much. She's not ready to settle her gaze on the full scope of her privilege yet.

We Can Be Heroes

Terrible circumstances drive Cadence to make a terrible choice. When the fighting between the Sinclair sisters becomes unbearable, Cadence reasons that burning down Clairmont will stop the fighting. "They would repent of their deeds," she says, "And after that, learn to love one another again./Open their souls. Open their veins. Wipe off their smiles./Be a family. Stay a family" (68.12-15). It's a theory, anyway.

Cadence imagines that what they're doing is heroic, saying, "contrary to the expectations of the beautiful family in which I was raised, I am an arsonist./A visionary, a heroine, a rebel./The kind of person who changes history" (72.14). Her heart's in the right place, it seems, but the act she commits is impulsive, self-aggrandizing, and ultimately deadly.
"It was a horrible thing to do," she admits. "Maybe. But it was something. It wasn't sitting by, complaining. I am a more powerful person than my mother will ever know. I have trespassed against her and helped her, too" (73.56). Yeah… and you accidentally killed your three friends. At the end of the book, though, Cadence is filled with regret over having concocted a plan that killed the people she loved. She also knows, however, that unlike her mother, she won't be pushed around. Cadence is going to make her own way through the world.

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