Friday, 7 July 2017

Why Does Sophie Lie? Is Lying Pathological?

I was pleasantly surprised to come across a lead article in the National Geographic Magazine for the month of June 2017, titled, “Why We Lie”. It somehow struck a chord with the short story, Going Places by A.R.Barton (prescribed by the CBSE  for grade twelve English core syllabus). Sophie, the protagonist is a typical teenager who likes to daydream a lot. In her dreams she wants to be the owner of a boutique, and to fund it she wants to be an actress. Twisted logic? Yes, I guess most dreams defy logic! However, when a person begins to daydream excessively, (like Sophie does) one tends to believe in one’s dreams. Lying is one way of becomes pathological, a way for getting people to believe you.
Sophie tells tall stories, stories that are too fantastic to be true. Her stories are built of falsehood, lies that become better and better. When she tells her brother, Geoff “I met Danny Casey,” - page 73 Flamingo he reacts by saying, “It’s never true.” - page 73 Flamingo When later on in the living room, Geoff tells their father that Sophie had met Danny Casey, ‘Sophie wriggled where she was sitting at the table’-page 80 Flamingo because she knew that her father knew she was a liar. Her father’s reaction to this piece of information ‘was one of disdain.’-page 80 Flamingo Later on her father warns her, “One of these days you’re going to talk yourself into a load of trouble”. -page 81, Flamingo
So why then is Sophie an obsessive compulsive liar? Is she aware of the fact that she lies too often? I found some of the answers in the article in the National Geographic Magazine. An extract from the article reads, “Honesty may be the best policy, but deception and dishonesty are part of being human.” {page 27 National Geographic-June 2017} Another extract reads, “Learning to lie is a natural stage in child development. Kang Lee, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, has explored how children become more sophisticated liars as they age.” {page29 National Geographic-June,2017} It is clear from these observations that Sophie's habit of lying is a process of “child development” but the question is, till what age is it OK to lie? Jansie, Sophie’s friend ‘wished Sophie wouldn’t say these things.’-page 77 Flamingo She is a reality check for Sophie, and she keeps reminding Sophie that they are “only a few months away” -Page 77 Flamingo from graduating and it is high time she stopped lying! Jansie goes on to tell Sophie that she “really should be more sensible.” – Page 77-78 Flamingo
Interestingly enough, the article in the National Geographic Magazine presents case studies of people who kept on lying long after childhood. These case studies include and art forger, a tell-tale who went on to become ‘Virginia’s Biggest Liar award’ winner, an impersonator, a secret agent who lied for the country, con artists, a card shark, a prankster, and so on. It is clear from the article that people who continue to lie after childhood might end up on the wrong side of the law. Lying beyond a certain age is bound to lead to deviant behaviour and the concern for teachers and parents of teenagers is to make them aware of where they are heading to if they lie too often! What might appear innocent in little children might become a concern in teenagers who need to be grounded in the world of reality.
An infographic on page 35 of the National Geographic Magazine suggests, (and I am picking reasons that I feel relevant to Sophie) that people lie for economic advantage, personal advantage, self- impression, pathological reasons, and avoidance (escapism). If we take each one of these reasons, then it becomes clear that Sophie lies or daydreams for a better economic standard, one in which she is rich, she lies because it brings her the personal advantage of gaining the attention of people like Geoff who ignores her while tinkering with a motorcycle part, she does so in order to break into a conversation between her father and Geoff about football, she lies in order to create a better self-impression, she probably has a poor impression about herself being the daughter of a worker in a factory. Sophie dreams her lies because she wants to escape from a world of economic hardships, limitations and even gender disparity. One other important reason why Sophie dreams is that it is a pathological condition where she tends to ‘ignore or disregard’ reality.
Daydreaming and lying, at least in the case of Sophie go hand in hand, and her father’s concern about where she is headed to is real. Her mother, however, can only sigh as she listens to her father and younger brother responding to Sophie’s remark to Jansie that if she ever comes into money she will buy a boutique. Sophie’s lying begins to take up pathological tones when she begins dreaming about waiting for Danny Casey to come to the bench by the wharf. She actually waits for him!

1.        National Geographic – Why We Lie, Vol. 4 Issue 11, June 2017

2.        Flamingo Textbook in English for Class XII (Core Course) NCERT- 2007

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