The Untruthful Truth: The Story of Non-Writer
Imagine a writer who never shares his writing and who represents fiction as non-fiction. Imagine a young man who wants to be a writer so much that he believes his own "lies." In Tobias Wolff's novel _Old School_, the author poses an ethical dilemma to the reader concerning issues of personal identity and honor. Taking place at a preparatory school in the 1960s, the unnamed narrator struggles with moral issues that surround the development of his authentic self. His desperate desire to win the school's literary contest to meet the famous author Ernest Hemingway results in the narrator's singular experience of plagiarizing another writer's short story. Throughout the novel, Wolff demonstrates that the narrator's motivation to plagiarize results from his inability to claim his true self because his emotional choices inevitably clash with society's moral codes. This inner crisis of identity is shown through the narrator's denial of his own true self, which tragically results in his delusional state of mind.
The narrator's inability to authentically accept himself leads to the unintended consequence of his further self-destruction. As the novel centers on a writer who ironically does not want to share his writing with others. In the case of the narrator, a desperate fear of failure along with an overarching ambition to redeem his self-value as a talented writer stems from a deep insecurity about his background. As an ethnically Jewish boy from the working class in Seattle with a scholarship at an east coast Catholic preparatory school, the narrator is nothing but a social outsider. Even with a literary contest, the narrator self-consciously decides to submit work that is not too revealing of his true self. In regard to one poem, he states, "It was too close to home. It _was_ home… I could see myself there, and didn't want to. Even more, I didn't want anyone else to" (36). Since the narrator never claims his ethnic...
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