Lies and Lying

Dave’s lies indicate his disconnectedness from the world around him and prove that he is unprepared for the responsibilities of adulthood. Lying emerges as a behavior at odds with the moral qualities associated with adulthood and stereotypes of male behavior. Throughout the story, Dave tries to twist the truth in his favor so that he can buy a gun and avoid punishment. He convinces his mother to give him the $2 to buy the gun, for example, only after telling her that he plans to give it to Mr. Saunders. He reneges on his promise to give her the gun after buying it and later claims that he threw the gun in the river after shooting Jenny. Like a child, he fails to realize that lying won’t protect him and will only bring more problems in the future.


The darkness that pervades the story highlights the constraints, humiliation, and wounded pride that Dave associates with his work and family life. In the story’s opening line, Dave makes his way across the fields “through parting light,” fresh from another humiliating run-in with the older workers on the plantation. Thinking of the gun comforts him as the sun sets, caught between day and night just as he’s caught between childhood and adulthood. After purchasing the gun, he stays out late, taking aim in the dark fields at “imaginary foes.” Daytime only brings trouble and humiliation to Dave, whereas all his fantasies and imagined adventures take place at night. Wright describes Dave’s relationship with the gun as a clandestine affair involving lies, deceit, and secret locales. Only in the darkened fields can Dave find the independence and masculinity he seeks.