A Lie of the Mind

by Sam Shepard

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Describe the character Sally in A Lie of the Mind.

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Sally understands better than perhaps anyone what it costs to take care of Jake. She believes that he killed their father; despite that, she protected him from any reprisals. Now that he's home—and, once again, possibly a murderer —she realizes that she can't do it anymore. She doesn't even want to be around him.

Sally is a sad character. Her own mother treats her poorly and prefers her brothers. She doesn't necessarily want bad things for Jake, but she doesn't want to shield him if he's killed his wife. Like the rest of her family, she makes excuses for Jake to avoid the truth that he is a troubled and violent person. Her father was abusive to her. For her entire life, Sally has been either hurt by or in the shadow of men.

By the end of the play, Sally finds her boldness. She and her mother set their house on fire and move to Ireland to get away from their troubled family. This shows that Sally had a strong will, that she is impulsive, and that she is capable of being adventurous. Although Sally loves her brothers, she needs to put herself first to grow as a person and escape her troubled past.

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While Sally has a history of protecting her brother Jake, she eventually finds it unconscionable to continue down that path. Jake is a classic abuser, and after he beats his wife severely, Sally realizes that she cannot stand by him. Refusing to even live in the same house as him—let alone help cover up his actions—Sally gives us an example of someone who makes the hard choice to let an abusive family member face accountability for their actions. While there is tremendous social pressure to keep such tragic abuse as "family secrets," Sally knows that Jake's actions were completely uncalled for and that helping protect him would make her complicit. Given this conviction and bravery, it is easy to read Sally as a feminist character.

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Sally is a responsible and mature girl, especially for her youth and the fact that she has to act as a guardian for her older brother, the main character, Jake, most of the time. She protects him and helps take the blame for some of his senseless actions and acts frequently as the voice of reason. She realizes that her brother's competitive nature will lead to either his or their father's death (which it does, as her father dies trying to get into America).

She takes a lot of responsibility on herself by trying to shield her brother from his own actions. She feels guilty and eventually, as she grows more mature, she realizes that protecting him was not helping him truly grow up. Because of this, she eventually stops helping him and lets him fall victim to his own destructive tendencies.

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In A Lie of the Mind, Sally is one of the more minor characters (albeit still a quite important one).  Sally is Jake's little sister who continually refuses to be around her big brother.  In fact, she doesn't even want to live with him in the same house.  Her feelings are so very strong that Sally leaves the moment that Frankie accompanies Jake to the farm. 

Sally's big issue is that Jake doesn't take responsibility for himself or for others.  A very mature character for her age, Sally doesn't want to have any part in Jake's idea to wheedle out of the trouble he gets himself into (especially for having given Beth a beating for which she suffers severe brain damage).  Much of Sally's feelings stem from guilt because she guarded her older brother from the blame in dad's death.  In fact, the story begins with Sally talking about finding dad in a broken-down trailer. 

Jake always wants to challenge his dad, and proposes a bet that the first person to reach the United States from Mexico would win.  It is Sally that puts the true meaning of the race into perspective when she says that "[Jake] had decided to kill him."  And, truly, the race ends with Jake's father violently killed and "all over the road like some lost piece of livestock.” 

Still, Sally protects Jake from blame and feels lots of guilt. Because of this, however, she no longer wants to guard Jake from further harm.  Sally now feels that it is Jake's job to take responsibility for his own erroneous actions.  The title, of course, is about the lies people tell themselves (and tell others) to justify their actions in this world. Note the following important quote:

These things—in my head—lie to me. Everything lies. Tells me a story. Everything in me lies. But you. You stay. . . . You are true. I love you more than this life. You stay. You stay with him. He’s my brother.

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