Study Guide

What I Saw and How I Lied Warfare

By Judy Blundell

Warfare

It was 1947, and the war was over. Now there was music on every radio, and everybody wanted a new car. […]

But now our fathers and brothers and cousins were home, and our Victory Gardens had been turned back into lawns, because now we could buy not only what we needed but what we wanted, vegetables and coffee and creamy butter. (2.3-4)

Just because Evie was in New York City during the war doesn't mean that she didn't experience it in some way. They lived without a lot of things during the war, but now all the men are returning and things are going back to normal. At last.

It was the war. You couldn't ask him about it. You didn't want to remind him. What every wife and daughter could give was a happy home. That was our job. (4.11)

Joe's been through some terrible experiences during the war, but everyone is encouraged to sweep it under the rug. Even the newspapers say that they're not supposed to bring it up—they're just supposed to act like everything is normal and wonderful. Because, you know, that sounds healthy.

Those last months were the worst. It seemed like every day someone else's father or husband or son came home, and there was a party in someone's living room or backyard. When Margie's father came home, she walked around in a glow for weeks. I almost hated her. (9.10)

All Evie wants is for the war to be over and for Joe to come home. She thinks everything is going to be just as it was before—with her parents in love, and a real father figure to hug before dinner… but Joe's changed. The war has made him different.

"Funny thing about the moon," Peter said. "When I was overseas, I'd look up at it, and I couldn't get that the same moon was over here, too. Everything happens underneath the same moon. Things you never thought you'd see. Or do." (15.2)

Even though Peter went off to war and did things he never thought he'd do (probably terrible things that he can't talk about), he's still in the same old world. When he comes home, things haven't changed all that much—and they're still under the same moon.

But he wasn't looking at me. He was looking down the beach. "When I enlisted, I didn't know anything. What did I know? All I did was… play tennis, be a rich man's son." (15.4)

Peter's line about being a rich man's son almost sounds like something out of a cheesy movie—and it might very well be, since he's lying about his background. But there's still some truth to the fact that he didn't know anything before he enlisted. The war opened his eyes to a lot of atrocities.

"Baby, I was in a war. Of course I get it. That's where all the bad in the world comes from. Guys who like being mean." Peter's face went tight and closed. "I was that guy once. So was Joe. We were all that guy, for at least a minute. We had to be." (20.28)

When Peter talks to Evie like an adult, you get the sense that he's trying to say that the worst thing he saw wasn't the evil in the enemy. The worst thing he saw was the evil that existed inside of himself—and inside of Joe.

"We tried to get them out, all of them. We didn't know what happened to them until after the war. A family friend contacted us, someone who had made it through the camps, who knew what happened." (21.28)

The Graysons are the swankiest, coolest couple in Palm Beach (until they're kicked out, anyway), but they've led some not-so-charmed lives. So many of their family members died during the war, and they have to live with that.

I knew about the camps, but I hadn't really thought about them. I'd seen the articles, but we'd had so much of war. I hadn't wanted to think about it after it was over, after all the men were coming home. I hadn't wanted to listen to the whispers about Ruthie Kalman's cousins. I didn't want any more of the war. I was sick of the war. (21.29)

Evie has only ever thought about her side of the war—about waiting for Joe to come home and the shortages they faced in New York. But now she sees that she didn't look at the bigger picture; she's just starting to realize the extent of human atrocities that occurred.

"The only way I can do this is if it's like the war. I come home and I forget it." (32.20)

Joe's tried and true coping mechanism for anything bad that happens is to simply forget it happened and to never talk about it again. That's how he deals with the war—and later, it's how he deals with Peter's death and his wife's affair.

I couldn't tell her that I understood just a little better what Peter was talking about when he talked about war. I found out that what you think is necessary, what you have to do—well, all of a sudden, that can cover plenty of new ground. (33.9)

When Evie finds out that her parents might go to jail for killing Peter, she suddenly feels like she's in a war zone. Everyone has betrayed her (especially her mom), but she needs to do whatever it takes to keep her family together. Even if that means lying and betraying innocent people like Wally.

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