Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 282
The young adult novel We Were Liars by E. Lockhart explores a few key themes, namely self-forgiveness and acceptance after mistakes, as well as the dangers of privilege and unearned power.
The first key theme, that of self-forgiveness and acceptance, is made extremely clear by the end of the novel. The protagonist, Cadence, having lost her memory in an accident two years prior, finally recalls that her beloved cousins passed away in that same accident. She struggles not only to grieve their loss but also to forgive herself, as the situation that led to their deaths was an idea she conceived. Through an experience with either the spirits of her passed cousins or hallucinations of them, Cadence is assured that they do not hold her responsible for their deaths. Through this, Cadence is able to begin accepting the reality that they are gone, and she is also able to begin giving herself grace for her mistakes.
The second key theme, that of the power and dangers of privilege, is demonstrated by the actions of Cadence's family members. She comes from a wealthy family, and her grandfather, Harris, is the patriarch of this family. His three daughters, Cadence's mother and two aunts, are grown, well-educated women and yet still fully dependent on their father and unable to support themselves. Cadence and her cousins continually witness their mothers arguing over things such as their inheritances and the value of their father's property. The children detest this arguing and see it as tearing their family apart.
Other, more subtle themes that can be seen throughout the novel include the importance of family and relationships, the reality of mortality, and the power of wealth to corrupt.
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