The Lie

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Benjamin Evans is captivated by a glimpse into a First World War veteran’s private hell

Repetition pushed the average item up the six-point scale, and increased the odds that a statement would be categorised as true. For statements that were actually fact or fiction, known or unknown, repetition made them all seem more believable. Repetition can even make known lies sound more believable Credit: Alamy.

At first this looks like bad news for human rationality, but — and I can't emphasise this strongly enough — when interpreting psychological science, you have to look at the actual numbers. What Fazio and colleagues actually found, is that the biggest influence on whether a statement was judged to be true was With or without repetition, people were still more likely to believe the actual facts as opposed to the lies.

'The Lie' Review | Hollywood Reporter

The next question has to be, why might that be? The answer is to do with the effort it takes to being rigidly logical about every piece of information you hear. If every time you heard something you assessed it against everything you already knew, you'd still be thinking about breakfast at supper-time. Because we need to make quick judgements, we adopt shortcuts — heuristics which are right more often than wrong. Relying on how often you've heard something to judge how truthful something feels is just one strategy. The illusion of truth is not inevitable — when armed with knowledge, we can resist it Credit: Getty Images.

If repetition was the only thing that influenced what we believed we'd be in trouble, but it isn't.

Lord of the lies

We can all bring to bear more extensive powers of reasoning, but we need to recognise they are a limited resource. Our minds are prey to the illusion of truth effect because our instinct is to use short-cuts in judging how plausible something is. Often this works. Sometimes it is misleading.

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Once we know about the effect we can guard against it. This is why scholars are so mad about providing references - so we can track the origin on any claim, rather than having to take it on faith. But part of guarding against the illusion is the obligation it puts on us to stop repeating falsehoods.

We live in a world where the facts matter, and should matter.

'The Lie': Film Review | TIFF 2018

If you repeat things without bothering to check if they are true, you are helping to make a world where lies and truth are easier to confuse. So, please, think before you repeat. At the culmination of The Lie , we are left with a reflection on how war for many soldiers does not end with treaties or returns to bucolic homes and old loves, but continues with the ghosts of those who died on the battlefield always there, haunting them—and us all.

Dunmore writes with elegant authority, her language crisp and tense. As this impeccable and finely wrought literary tale winds to a chilling conclusion, readers will themselves be haunted by its evocative portrayal of a life-defining friendship and loss.

The Lie We Live

Endings are often the hardest beast for an author to tame, but Dunmore does it, with elegance, vigor and clarity. A quiet tragedy. It is a book in which ghosts, perhaps, remain imaginary: but they are none the less real for that. Powerful storytelling. A dark and haunting exploration of grief and guilt. She chronicles the struggle of a young man without family and homeless amid the quiet landscape of Cornwall, trying to escape his memories of trench warfare.

To what extent do you think Daniel is accountable for his lie? How is each defined in terms of both who he is and who he is not? What does each of them value?

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How has Daniel been shaped by his relationship with her? Look at the first few paragraphs to Chapter 9 pp. What do the chapter epigraphs contribute to the story?

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How do they relate to the text that follows in each chapter? In some instances as with Chapter 2 , the correspondence is literal, but look at the epigraph to Chapter 11 in relation to the text that follows p. What is the effect of this break in the pattern? From the first chapter, images of dirt and soil feature heavily throughout the novel. What are the various roles these images play?

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  7. What sort of symbolic value do they take on? Common in military parlance, the word enemy appears in the epigraphs to Chapters 9 p.

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    Look at the enemies described in those chapters. Do you think the epigraphs might be so chosen to call into question the legitimacy of the term? Does this seem surprising, or appropriate, under the circumstances? What skills and habits of mind did he acquire in early life?

    How has the war affected his ability to believe what he sees? Is there a mystical aspect to this story? Who else besides Daniel seems to see Frederick? Does being the underdog socioeconomically make Daniel sensitive to the deprivations of others? How is he critical of Felicia? The First World War gave rise to a great body of war poems, arising out of a culture conversant with poetry in which students were required to learn poems by heart.

    Does this novel serve as an argument for the value of general acquaintance with poems? What role do poems play in the story? Do you ever wish you had more words—and perhaps also poems—in your arsenal? The writing in this novel is richly descriptive, particularly regarding landscape—do you find the language itself compelling? Is Daniel still too young to wield a word like never? In addition to war, what other experiences might distance someone so utterly from their former life?

    Is facing up to death necessarily truer than the concerns of ordinary life?

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