The Liar

Short Story Assignment

The short story “ The Lair”, is about a mother who is having difficulty with her youngest son James, because he has trouble telling the truth. The narrator in the story is James himself telling the readers about the frustration and anger that his mother is enduring while she struggles to cure him of his “disease”, being a liar.

The two main characters in the story are James and his mother. James is a young boy, 16 years old, who lies to attract attention from others. Although James has friends and brothers and sisters he feels that he is still being ignored especially after the death of his father. He uses lying to attract the attention of pretty much anyone but especially his mother who he feels has underestimated him his entire life. This is his way of getting back at her.
James’ mother, Margaret, is a widow in her late 40’s early 50’s. She is a strong catholic who believes her prayers to god will save her from her troubles. Her biggest trouble is James’ lying. She thought that she had him cured until she discovered proof that he was at it again. Now she is even more determined to make James “well” once and for all. She is a very strong woman, and has always been the head of her family especially since her husband started to become ill.
The central conflict in the story is James’ mother’s frustrating attempt to cure her son of his uncontrollable lying. Finally at the end she sends him off to visit his brother, which James only feels as an attempt to get rid of him for awhile. We see at the end as he lies to a stranger that his mother’s last attempt to cure him has failed.

Point Of View
The story is told in first person narrative. It is from the point of view of James, the “ liar “. This is important because James is the center of the conflict in the story; we need to understand what is going through his mind so that we understand why he is lying.

Setting
The setting of the story is in a small town where everybody knows pretty much everybody. It is not a long ways from Yosemite parks. This is the place where one of James’ flashbacks occurs. Yosemite symbolizes the happier times in James’ life.

Tone and Mood
The tone and mood that is set in this story is frustration, anger and embarrassment. Anger belongs to both James and his mother, but the embarrassment and frustration mainly falls upon Margaret. Their moods help us understand how they are feeling in certain situations.

Irony and symbolism help us better understand the story. There is significant symbolism in the Liar. James has flashbacks which symbolize different moods in the story for instance when he thinks about family vacations in Yosemite this symbolizes the times he was happiest. When he remembers the day his dad died and he carried his body to the bed, his mother discovers this and is furious with him. This symbolizes the breaking point at which he begins his attempts to hurt his mother. Most importantly James’ lies symbolize his unhappiness with his mother; he uses them as an attempt to lash out against her. What is ironic in the story is that James’ lies only caused his mother pain but his lies to the people on the bus caused everyone comfort.

The theme in the liar, in my opinion, is that we use certain devices to hurt or emotionally damage those that anger us or upset us in some way. James’ device is his lies. He knows that these lies hurt and embarrass his mother. For example when he lies to people about something and they confront his mother about it on the street, “ Often my lies came back to her in embarrassing ways, people stopping her in the street and saying how sorry they were to here that…” You can tell that James is not in the least bit ashamed by what he has done to his mother, it is almost as if he is proud of his accomplishment. James knows he is wrong by doing this yet something tells him too keep going, He his