A man can be true to himself and to others, but not to both.
He was trying to explain why he decided to keep two wives instead of divorcing one. In his defence, he also says that they were all happy because he was happy and he was happy because for once in his life, he was true to himself.
I find this an extraordinary assumption because it couldn’t be any truer. This is another life lesson that Arthur Miller made us reflect upon. In life we often try to make compromises and at the end, nobody is truly happy. My husband likes land and I like city. Purchasing an in-between property won’t make any of us happy. So what to do? In this case, I wouldn’t buy anything instead of compromise. Sometimes we make an escape to the land and other times we enjoy a bustling city, but nothing in between, please.
The question of being honest to himself is also discussed in Death of a Salesman. Biff, Willy’s son, claims that his father lived in a fantasy because he did not know who he was. But Charley, the neighbour, disagrees – like I do. Willy had always known who he was, but he never accepted it. There is a difference. He believed in his success theory so blindly that he hoped that one day it would be all the way he wished for. This way, he was being honest to himself and to others. Willy Loman was not selling a lie because for him it was true.
In Crucible Abigail knew that she desired or even loved Proctor and that she wanted his wife out of the way. The other girls who got involved in the ‘circus’ also knew why Abigail led them to lie in such magnitude. So, when they lied it was not only to save their skins for being caught dancing in the woods in suspicion of witchcraft, but mainly to protect themselves from Abigail, whom they terribly feared.
In Children’ Hour and Little Foxes the plots also evolves around lies. In Children’s Hour, the child tells a terrible lie to give the ‘old ladies’ a lesson – for they were ‘messing’ with the wrong little devil. But in Little Foxes the lie the brothers tell to put their hands on the money of Regina’s husband, is to satisfy their own ambition. The funny thing is that once Regina discovers the truth she isn’t even so bothered, as long as she participates in the profit.
The biggest example of all the plays I covered in this module around the theme lie is Streetcar Named Desire. The lies Blanche tells are full of rich details and fantasy, that I gained the impression that she sometimes believed them to be true – sometimes, not all the times because she could lie coldly without any shame. She lied so much that when she told the truth about Stanley raping her, nobody believed.
Lies can become so true that the teller won’t even notice, but the person making her/his life upon lies deliberately, normally knows what they are doing, without remorse or for pure fear, but never lack of choice.