Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 368

One major theme of this play is that our minds will go to great lengths to protect us from horrible truths. They will, in fact, invent fictions that are less painful and emotionally easier for us to believe so that we do not have to continue to grapple with difficult realities. For example, rather than deal with the fact that her son Jake is a violent and drunken wife-beater, Lorraine blames others for his violence. She says that a "Woman who lives with a man like [him] deserves to be killed. She deserves it." Moreover, she says that Jake "Fell on his damn head the second he was born. Slipped right through the doctor's fingers. That's where it all started. Back there." In this way, Lorraine is able to blame the woman Jake married or the doctor who dropped him for his violence. She is also able to shield herself from any blame for the way he grew up. Lorraine even tells her son Frankie not to buy Jake any liquor "unless [he] want[s] someone else killed." In this case, it would be the alcohol's fault, and not Jake's own violent personality, that would be to blame.

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Another major theme addresses the attractiveness of male–female relationships as well as their simultaneous destructiveness. None of the relationships between men and women in this play are happy or healthy ones. Jake beats Beth, but they go on loving each other anyway. Baylor is bitter that he's wasted his life caring for "feeble-minded women" as he calls them: first his mother-in-law (who he apparently had committed); then his wife, Meg, who seems to be going down the same path; and now his daughter, who has sustained brain damage that seems in many ways to grow worse rather than better. Even the relationship between Lorraine and Jake is messed up. He thinks she's plotting with Frankie against him, and he manipulates his sister, Sally, to cover up his escape. There is antagonism between Mike and Beth, despite his sincere attempts to help her recover in the hospital, and there is antagonism between Jake and Sally, probably dating back to his indirect murder of their father (for which she was present).

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519

Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind explores the structure of the American family as well as the delusions, the “lies of the mind,” that individuals construct both for each other and for themselves. Beth, who inhabits a world of self-created delusion and who is unable to communicate her ideas and needs to others, exemplifies the prevailing inadequacy of human nature. Unable to respond coherently to the world around her because of the brain damage she suffered when Jake beat her, Beth creates lies of the mind—fictions that permit her to survive. The play suggests that each character assembles a personal version of reality in his or her mind, and that those perceptions are locked in individual skulls. Lorraine blocks out the pain of being abandoned by her husband by pretending indifference; Baylor hides from his family by erecting a facade of the crusty frontier hunter; Jake erases all his memories of the race in Mexico that led to his father’s death. The play suggests that the characters create solitary worlds of “pretend,” that “reality” is a composite of discrete—and often contradictory—perceptions.

The significance of the action in A Lie of the Mind is conveyed by various...

(The entire section contains 887 words.)

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