Examine the presence of theme in The Grifters.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One theme that permeates the novel is the role of deception.  This takes on the form of deception of others and deception of self.  For each of the characters, the fundamental gift of being a grifter is the ability to deceive others in a manner that benefits oneself.  Moira, Roy, and Lilly each seek to deceive others in order to benefit themselves.  This deception is postmodern in nature, though because it is infinitely regressive.  Each of the characters succeeds in deceiving the world, as well as themselves.  Self- deception is where the theme is most evident.  Moira, the pinnacle of poise and control, cannot escape haunting thoughts of her past mentor and his impact upon her.  Lilly cannot escape the nagging reality of motherhood and the life she chose as a grifter.  She cannot deceive such a collision.  Roy finds himself struggling with his own notion of self and that no matter what he does to deceive the world, he cannot deceive himself or delude himself from his existential crisis.  

The theme of deception is a reality that each of the characters establishes in their own world in order to survive.  It also represents how each of the characters functions from an emotional point of view, seeking to deceive even themselves when it is impossible to do.  In this, the theme of deception helps to explain both the characters' relationship with the world and the flawed relationship amongst themselves.

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