"The Lie" is a short story, which appeared in the collection of short fiction called, "Welcome to the Monkey House." Critics were not impressed with the collection, and even author Kurt Vonnegut remarked that the stories were merely "samples of work I sold in order to finance the writing of novels." Nevertheless, "The Lie" continues to be read and reviewed, particularly in academia.
For generations, boys in the wealthy Remenzel family have been attending the prestigious Whitehill School. Matriculation at the school is almost a rite of passage, and the family traditionally donates money to the school as several buildings bear the "Remenzel" family name (Remenzel Hall). Nothing fills Dr. Remenzal with more pride than when his own son, Eli, reaches the age to continue the Whitehill tradition.
Eli Remenzal can't help but feel nervous as his family's Rolls Royce cruises toward Whitehill with his mother, Sylvia, and father. Perhaps under different circumstances, Eli might be nervous about enrolling in a sleep-away school, spending weeks away from his family when he's not even old enough to drive. Actually, that's the least of his worries. Although many wealthy families send their kids to Whitehall, the school is more concerned with academic merit than financial compensation -- and, unfortunately, Eli didn't pass the admissions test. Eli is the only person in the car who knows this, however, since, after reading the rejection letter, he tore it to shreds for fear of what his parents -- particularly his dad -- would think.
Fathers Lie Too
Dr. Remenzal is ecstatic as he rides to Whitehill with Eli and Sylvia. He reminisces fondly on his time at the school and wishes the best for his son. He also thinks this is the beginning of his son becoming a man but assures his son that it won't be easy. Despite the family's wealth and position, Dr. Remenzal impresses upon Eli that he should not expect special treatment simply because his name is Remenzal. However, when the truth comes out, Eli learns that his father doesn't really think this way. Dr. Remenzal's lecturing on privilege isn't something he truly lives by but moral posturing in an attempt to teach his son a lesson.
The Truth Comes Out
Eli slumps in his seat as the Rolls Royce nears Whitehill. When they arrive, the school's headmaster begins to explain the predicament (that Eli has not been accepted), and Eli runs away in embarrassment. But Dr. Remenazal is less concerned about confronting Eli's dishonesty than he is about revealing his own. Dr. Remenazal promptly tries to use his family name, privilege and power to circumvent his son's test results and secure some major special treatment, despite everything he said to Eli on the same issue. Whitehill's administration doesn't give in, however. In the end, Eli and his dad have to come to terms with the truth about dishonesty and their relationship.
- Jupiterimages /Polka Dot/Getty Images