Study Guide

What I Saw and How I Lied Greed

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Joe had brought it back from the war, and it had real rubies in it. Everything was cheap over in Europe now, he said. You could pick up stuff for practically nothing. The poor folks over there were glad to sell it. You were doing them a favor. (4.5)

Instead of thinking about the suffering of those who this gold and jewelry belonged to, Joe just sees it as a way to look like a hotshot and a successful businessman. He doesn't think about the consequences of his looting.

"We all talked about what to do after the war," Peter said. "Joe always had the big ideas." (8.82)

Oh yeah, Joe had some big ideas all right. They include: stealing money from Jewish people who are in concentration camps, coming back and opening a string of appliance stores, buying a dream house, and cheating his former army buddy Peter out of his cut.

"Joe here is a smart businessman," Peter said. "He knows when to grab the big chance. Right, Joe?" (10.29)

Peter's constantly mentioning how Joe is such a good businessman—by which he totally means that Joe is a crook who ran off with all their money for his personal gain. Same difference?

"There's more than one road. This place is busting to develop. I'm sick of Queens—I've lived there all my life. Look at all the servicemen here, getting a taste of sunshine and orange juice. You think they want to head back home after this? Come on, sweetheart. Can't you see us here?" (13.34)

Coming back from the war isn't enough; going on vacation to Palm Beach isn't enough; owning several appliances stores isn't even enough. Joe wants to make it big, and he thinks that owning a hotel is his ticket to riches.

She married a guy who delivered soda and pumped gas for a living and now he owned three stores. We'd been scroungers, too, all our lives, saving up for new shoes, sewing ruffles on the hems of my dresses when they got too short to wear. Now here we were sitting in a suite in Palm Beach. All because of Joe. (13.36)

Evie just doesn't get why her mom isn't more impressed by Joe. He obviously knows how to climb the ladder; after all, he started off penniless and now is a successful businessman. But of course, she doesn't know yet the lengths that Joe will go to in the name of personal success.

"So you stole it." I thought I wanted to know everything. But I didn't want to hear this. (20.46)

Joe and Peter are two of the most important men in Evie's life, and she doesn't want to think of them as anything but flawless, good people. It's hard for her to listen to how they stole money from Jews affected by the war.

So Joe had the cash, all the time. He could have paid Peter, and he didn't. He wanted his dream house instead. He wouldn't give that up. (28.81)

It wasn't even like Joe didn't have the money to pay Peter off—that's the hard thing for Evie to wrap her mind around. He ended up killing an innocent man because he didn't want to give up that last eight grand. Was it worth it?

With every exclamation, he shook her again. "And I'm going to buy us a house, and we're going to live and be happy. That's what's going to happen!" (32.24)

Even when everything is going down the drain and Joe is under investigation for murder, he refuses to give up his dream. When they get out of this mess, he expects them all to go home and live like one happy, well-off family.

He'd wanted success so badly that he'd stolen and he'd lied. How bad did he want to keep it? (32.63)

Evie doesn't even know who to believe anymore. She doesn't want to think that Joe could kill someone, but then she also is starting to see how consumed he is by his desire to be successful and rich.

"Then donate it somewhere. Just take it, because if you don't, we're doomed. The family. It's bad enough that I don't know," I said. (35.84)

Joe may be planning to use his money to buy a nice new house for the family, but Evie doesn't care. That kind of wealth doesn't seem like it's meant for her, anyway, since it was acquired at the expense of the suffering of others.

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