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Lies – Ethan Canin Essay

1. Summary Jack is the narrator in this short story. He’s an eighteen-year-old teenager, who has a complicated relationship with his parents. His mother is trying to push him in the right direction concerning his future. On the other hand it’s clear that his father does not want Jack to live at home anymore. He said: “Yours pay your dime, you takes your choice”, which from what Jack interpreted means; get out. Though, Jack does not care that much about moving out anyway, because he’s going to get married to Katy. He met her at the movie theatre, Able’s, where he worked after his graduation. When he went out with her, she admitted that she loved him, but he did not feel the same way yet. He realizes that he’s getting more mature, and decides to leave his job to go to Fountain Lake with Katy. He’s finally feeling the same way about her.

2. Characterization The main character, which is also the narrator, is called Jack. He’s the character, who is describing every little detail through his eyes and mind. He’s an eighteen year old “grown up”, which I would prefer to call him, because he thinks of himself as mature individual. He’s different from teenagers at his own age. That reason is that he is in a “serious” relationship with a girl called Katy. When I’m writing “serious”, I mean he is still young and he’s getting married to his beautiful future wife, Katy. He’s going to experience a life on his own, therefore it could be a kind of relief for him to move out, and on the other hand he doesn’t even care about “the moving” out situation. I think that it’s partly his father’s fault. They don’t seem to get along together. Though, he might think that his father’s honesty is better than lying to him.

His life is somehow finally making sense. But it doesn’t seem like he had the freedom to do, what he really wanted to do, before he met her.

He’s finally out of high school. I interpreted that his mother had pushed him really far to get to this point in his life. She has been telling him, he can be anything he wants to be, if he makes and an effort. After his own opinion he’s old enough to figure out that, that is not the case. That makes him question his mother’s sincerity.

After graduation he got a job as a projectionist and a ticket seller at Able’s, which is the movie theatre. That’s where he met Katy. One day in the booth, Katy told Jack that she loved him, but he actually didn’t feel the same way about her, yet. I think that the relationship between them is going too fast. He doesn’t seem to be following her every step of the way. They are both really young, it might be difficult for them to comprehend, what’s going to happen further on in life, because they’re getting married to soon. Another explanation could be that only one other woman than Katy has loved him, which is his mother. We actually don’t hear much about the father. I’m guessing that the father isn’t there for Jack, when he needs him, supportively. That indicates that Jack has had lack of love from his father.

He describes the wedding more like a justice of peace. In my sense, I understand it as a little gathering of people, just to document that there has been a ceremony celebrating the lovebirds. Then they can eventually move on to live their life on their own in peace and happiness.

3. Comment on the title and ending I think the title is very interesting. We do hear about Jack’s mother lying to him, and that his father is ironically an honest man, and that Jack sometimes may lie, but not if it’s a serious subject, he’s talking about. Especially when Katy says that she loves him. The title does suit the short story, but I would rather have named the title something that has to do with relationships instead.

The ending just seems bleak at first. He doesn’t have his mother’s guidance anymore, and he somehow fears the outside world. But then when he’s in the car, he bursts out that he loves Katy. They’re still on the road and he seems to be more confident. He sounds more happy and peaceful than ever before.

4. Themes The theme of the story could be about, as I have written before, relationships, because of the bond between his parents, friends and girlfriend. All of the relationships have developed in three different ways. He’s moving on to another and more mature state in his life, where he’s choosing to take a new direction. He does not feel like talking to his friends and is already in a complicated relationship with his parents. The only one he actually enjoys being around with is Katy.


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