Study Guide

What I Saw and How I Lied Prejudice

By Judy Blundell

Prejudice

"Jeepers, Evie, you shouldn't worry," Margie said. "After all, a McCafferty wouldn't date a Kalman. She's Jewish." She whispered the last word, as if the statue of Mary would blow a raspberry if she heard it. (2.31)

Margie acts like it's ridiculous to think that a boy would like Ruthie Kalman—after all, she's Jewish. Just the way that she says it makes Evie uncomfortable, which is a good thing—it means that Evie is bothered by prejudice and discrimination.

"Do you believe the nerve?" Margie whispered to me. "Did she see the way she looked at us? I'll show her." (2.47)

To Margie, it's not just an affront that Ruthie is Jewish. It's that she has the nerve to hang out with a Catholic boy even though Margie clearly thinks that she's a lesser being. Margie is so prejudiced that she can't see that maybe Ruthie and Jeff just like each other.

They had two water fountains, one for Whites and one for Coloreds. I'd seen a few of them on the drive south. A N**** girl was taking a drink while her mother looked on. When the mother met my eyes, she quickly looked away. (16.21)

There are little things in the world that open Evie's eyes to the injustice of it all—and the separate water fountains that she sees definitely make her think about how unfair it is that people are treated differently. She can't change anything yet, though, but she can keep it in mind.

"Yeah, that's what people say when they want to stop an argument about the coloreds," I say. "It makes me feel sorry for Jackie Robinson. That's a lot for one man to do, on top of covering second base." (16.28)

When Evie tells Peter about how unfair it is, he says that "the coloreds" (their words, not ours) have a chance too—they have Jackie Robinson. But Evie is smart enough (even though she's a kid) to know that one man's success and acceptance can't represent that of a whole ethnic group.

"Mr. Grayson, we trusted that you and your wife were Gentiles. But from speaking to your mother, we believe this is not the case." (19.19)

The hotel manager doesn't mince words when he tells the Graysons why he's kicking them out, nor does he pretend to be embarrassed by the fact that he's so prejudiced against Jewish people. He just tells them to leave.

"No, I mean, I'm sorry about the punch, but—the Graysons got kicked out of the hotel. Tonight. They're Jewish. The manager just kicked them out, just like that." (20.19)

Evie runs to Peter because she is so confused by what she's just witnessed; she can't believe that someone would kick the Graysons out of the hotel for being Jewish and enjoy doing so. Even the place she's come to see as her temporary home (the hotel) isn't safe from human ugliness.

"They're leaving in the morning. Peter, you don't understand," I said. "The manager. He enjoyed it." (20.23)

It's not just the fact that the manager had a policy against Jewish people—this is common behavior around Palm Beach—but he also doesn't act apologetic or embarrassed at all when he kicks them out. Instead he takes pleasure in turning someone away because of their heritage. It's super wrong and unsavory.

"I don't understand any of it," I said. "Why they won't let you stay. Why any of this can happen. I mean, we just fought a whole war."

"It wasn't about the Jews, kiddo," Arlene said softly. (21.33-34)

When Evie goes to talk to Arlene Grayson before they leave the hotel, Mrs. Grayson helps her to see that the war wasn't about making things fair for Jewish people. It was about governmental interests, so even after the war has been fought, people are going to keep their bigoted ways.

"They'll have sandwiches there, I heard," I said, trying to be helpful.

She gave me a nasty look. Later I found out that crackers meant poor Southerners, not Uneeda Biscuits. (24.6-7)

Geez. Even when a hurricane is threatening their lives, people can't take a moment to accept each other and stop judging. Evie's fellow hotel guests are a pretty judgmental and negative lot.

On Sunday morning, I saw Ruthie Kalman come out of the drugstore as I was heading to the subway. She speeded up when she saw me. I almost had to run to catch up. (35.1)

Ruthie's accustomed to her non-Jewish schoolmates treating her with prejudice and bigotry, and she expects the exact same thing from Evie. But Evie doesn't want to make fun of her—she wants to connect with her. After all, they're both the same where it matters.

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