Lies can be interpreted several ways; whether it be lying for the sake of another, lying for selfish reasons, or implicit lies stemming from lack of memory. Each author in this week’s readings delves into the heart of lying, each deciphering lies in a different fashion.
Montaigne condemns lying in his essay “Of Liars”, by making a clear distinction between “telling a lie and lying”. Telling a lie is to state something false unintentionally while the memory believes it to be true. However, lying is to disregard your conscience and tell the opposite of what you know to be the truth. Montaigne’s tone is caustic and slightly humorous, as he highlights the benefits to having a bad memory because the “lies” you tell are not malicious in intent. Montaigne is also caustic as he castigates liars (particularly government officials) for their blatant dishonesty. This can also be seen as a social commentary of the time, and makes the reader wonder whether government was rampant with corruption in Europe during the 16th century.
Much like Montaigne, Francis Bacon chastises liars in his essay, “Of Truth”. Bacon sees lying as an affront to God, and a blemish to civilization. Bacon uses metaphors, and relates lying to “serpents”, as well as embellishing the essay with religious aspects in his mention of God and Christ. This is interesting, as Bacon likens serpents to evil and lying, which reminds me of Adam and Eve. Tricked by the evil serpent, Eve eats the apple of knowledge and all of the “lies” of the world crumble and instead Adam and Eve are punished by God and banished from Eden.
Bacon’s essay also bears resemblance to Graham’s work, “The River”. Graham symbolizes lying with a river, which meanders and twists around obstacles the deeper you become entwined with the lie. Bacon also mentions a twisted path of lying: “For these winding, and crooked courses, are the goings of the serpent“. Visually, lying is seen as the more difficult, winded path as a means to the end, rather than the straight and simple path that truth would bring.
Lastly, Hampl’s view on lying is different, as lying is an inherent element that comes with writing a memoir. Hampl views lying as blank spaces in a person’s memory, which can be filled with inaccurate details in order to complete the entire picture of the memoir. A memoir is a recounted memory written in ink, which even the most factual precise account is only another version of the truth. Hampl accepts lying in an open way, and admits lying in her recollection of piano class. In Hampl’s essay, she distorts minute details in order to reflect her own feelings about that memory. For example, the truth is that Hampl played first piano in pieces more often than Mary Katherine Reilly, but lies about being her “sidekick” because it reflects her own feelings of inferiority in the presence of someone who is outgoing and who she admired.
I believe that lying can be both intentional and unintentional, and is an integrated part of our society in order to maintain decorum in our hectic lives.