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# Themes and Motifs

### Layers to the Truth

• both the mystery and the friendship plot are about the peeling away of layers of truth to find the real truth
• plots are interrelated in terms of action, events and information
• plots are thematically linked by the idea that there are layers to the truth
• mystery plot core truth: present-day crimes were committed by the same person (Stringfellow)
• friendship plot core truth: in the past, Larry committed an unforgivable betrayal (calling Silas a "nigger"); in the present, their biological relationship is less of a defining factor in the process of rebuilding their friendship than compassion, honesty, and a willingness to make amends / rebuild fences
• in order to get to those core truths, the characters have to dig through layers of more superficial truths – bits of physical, emotional, and psychological evidence that simultaneously obscure core truths and reveal them
• evidence is both physical (like tire tracks) and psychological (emotions like uneasiness, frustration)
• evidence leads both the central characters and the readers into truths that explain not only what happened and how, but why

### The Relationship Between Past and Present

• theme is present in both plot lines
• mystery plot: certain objects in the present are given meaning by their appearances in the past
$\rightarrow$ zombie mask
$\rightarrow$ appearances in the present trigger mystery
$\rightarrow$ its appearances in the past adding layers, explanation, and irony to that mystery
$\rightarrow$ its final appearance in the present explaining its presence in an event (the attack on Larry) in the more recent past (a revelation at the end of the novel referring to an event at its beginning)
• friendship plot: relationship / interplay between past and present is perhaps even more significant
$\rightarrow$ present exists because of the past, so much of what happens and exists in the present is very pointedly, very vividly connected to the past

### Race Relations

• action of the novel is set within American South, which has a powerful cultural and historical context of racism – specifically, of tensions between blacks and whites
• the racial origins of the two boys clearly shape the way in which they play together and/or interact at school
$\rightarrow$ at first, their different races does not seem to have any effect on how they behave towards each other
$\rightarrow$ changes when they are forced to fight over a rifle by Carl and Larry calls Silas a "nigger"
$\rightarrow$ term as a friendship-breaker
$\rightarrow$ racism plays a role in the breakdown of their friendship
• the reinstatement of the friendship is more defined by Silas' being honest about issues between himself and Larry that have nothing to do with race
• due to the fact that Silas has played a role in ruining Larry's life, he wants to atone for what he has done, and at the same time, he is forgiving Larry for his part in the conflict that ended their friendship (calling Silas a "nigger")

### Coming of Age

• phrase refers to an emerging into maturity, a growing up – the world and things in it are not what they seemed to be
• refers to circumstances in which idealism becomes corrupted to some degree, innocence becomes knowledge, and childhood or youth becomes young adulthood
• both central characters begin the story innocent of both their true relationship
• Larry is innocent of what happened to Cindy, while Silas (not completely innocent) is still somewhat immature when it comes to taking responsibility for the truth or for his actions
• learning the truth about their pasts and their presents, they both "come of age" into a new maturity, and a new relationship
• Larry's coming of age: from accepting that the truth about himself is something much more than what he had been told about himself; let to believe about himself; and decided was true about himself
• Silas' coming of age: freedom from anger and resentment about Larry and his Larry's role in the conflict that ended their friendship

### Friendship

• novel as examination of friendship: how friendship is longed for, how it works, its fragility, what happens when it ends, the possibility of its renewal, how possible it is to delude oneself into believing in a friendship when it is actually something else
• first friendship in the novel is that between white, uneducated and un-athletic Larry Ott and black, educated baseball player Silas Jones
• friendship begins as the result of living close to each other; develops on the basis of mutual loneliness and shared secrets; and crumbles down when their races become a tool for destructive manipulation by the man whom neither knows is their same biological father, Carl Ott
• Silas' and Larry's relationship is healed by truth since the grudges they have held over each other for years have now been transcended by their honesty
• second friendship is between Larry and Wallace
• friendship begins out of curiosity by Wallace's curiosity about alleged killer Larry, develops out of loneliness and need on Larry's part and out of obsession on Wallace's part, breaks down when Wallace is unable to accept the truth from Larry about what happened to Cindy
• friendship is defined by a toxic mix of painful solitude and a psychotic engagement with a lie that Wallace desperately and madly wants to believe is a truth
• friendship to Silas is based on truth whereas friendship to Wallace is based on lies
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