“The Liar” by Tobias Wolfe is a short story that examines the damage, or lack of damage, that lying does to everyone involved. It is my belief that most lies do very little damage to the liar or anyone who happens to hear the lie. This is because most people make their best effort to be good. The majority of lies are told with good intentions. Even though this is not the case in “The Liar,” the lies told are not invented to hurt anyone. Had the mother in the story never discovered the lies, no one would have experienced any true suffering. In fact, James’ lying helped to distract his mother after his father’s death, which seemed to trigger the start of his lying. It also supplies a topic of interest for his family doctor, who is fascinated with James’ mental health and the motivations behind his lying.
At the end of the story, James tells a lie about working with Tibetan refugees. This lie is the perfect example of a harmless, and possibly helpful, lie. It serves to entertain and distract the passengers from their dreary situation by providing an interesting story to occupy their thoughts. Once the ride is over, James and the other passengers will go their separate ways and those to whom he has lied will never know the truth, and as a result will never be harmed by the lie despite the enormity of it.
In conclusion, it does not matter that James’ lies were morbid or outlandish. What matters most are the intentions of the liar, and it is my opinion that James was simply trying to occupy his mind after his father’s death. The lies he told were not intended to hurt the people around him, and would not have done so had he been better at it. James’ real sin is not his lying, but instead his inability to do it correctly.