Study Guide

Arlene Grayson in What I Saw and How I Lied

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Arlene Grayson

When the Spooners first see Arlene Grayson, they're all taken by just how elegant and fancy she looks, even though she isn't exactly a naturally beautiful woman. Check out Evie's description:

She wore a pink dress with a deep neckline and a black sequined cardigan draped over her tanned shoulder, fastened with a brooch. Her black hair was long, past her shoulders, and straight. It was pinned to one side with a clip that looked like a spray of diamonds, but were probably rhinestones. She wasn't beautiful—Mom had her beat by a mile—but she was the kind of woman who made heads turn. (5.43)

Mrs. Grayson has an effortless elegance that comes with her wealth and overall classiness. Because of this, she seems mysterious and aloof to Evie—like she might be a spy, or someone who's lived in privilege her whole life. But when the Graysons get kicked out of the hotel for being Jewish, Evie comes to see Mrs. Grayson in a completely different light. She's not just some coddled rich woman who's never known any hardship in her life; she's had to go through some horrific losses in the war. As she explains to Evie:

"What did God do to him?"

"Killed his cousins," she said. "Samuel was like a brother to him. Sam's wife, Nadia. And Irene, their daughter. She was just your age. She had your same birthday, October thirty-first." (21.26-27)

It turns out that Mrs. Grayson is a much more complicated person than Evie initially thought. She has this beautiful, elegant veneer, but inside she hides a lot of pain. Knowing her helps Evie tune into the ongoing injustices in the world—the war might be over, but anti-Semitism is alive and well—and in the end she brings Mrs. Grayson what remains of Joe and Peter's stolen money in hopes that she can use it to help Jewish families recover from the war.

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