Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.
It is often the case that revealing the complete truth may bring trouble—discomfort, embarrassment, sadness, or even harm—to oneself or to another person. In these circumstances, it is better not to express our real thoughts and feelings. Whether or not we should tell the truth, therefore, depends on the circumstances.
Assignment: Do circumstances determine whether or not we should tell the truth? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.
Even though it is true that honesty is a great virtue, I still cannot help but believe that under some circumstances, choosing not to tell the truth is a wise decision. Look at O.Henry’s short story, “the last leaf.” Johnsy suffers from pneumonia, a severe disease that can result in the death of a person. Johnsy sinks into the depths of hopelessness. Seeing the leaves of ivy outside her window fall down every day, she tells Sue, her best friend, that she must go when the last leaf falls. Fearing that Johnsy’s hold upon the world grows weaker, Sue goes to see Mr. Behrman, an old painter. Knowing the matter, Mr. Behrman comes up with a good idea of drawing a leaf on the tree outside Johnsy’s window. An artificial leaf will never fall down. When Johnsy sees the last leaf still stands out after the heavy rain and fierce wind, she has the courage to fight with pneumonia. Finally she recovers. In this story, Sue knows the truth but does not tell Johnsy about the artificial leaf because she believes Johnsy can pluck up at the critical time.
In the movie, les miserable, the bishop’s action also demonstrates that people should not always tell the truth. In 1815, convict Jean Valjean is released on parole after serving a nineteen-year sentence. Valjean is driven out of every town, because of his paroled status. Fortunately, later he is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne. However, during the night, Valjean steals silver when the Bishop sleeps soundly. The next day, he is captured by the authorities, but the Bishop informs them that the silver was given to Valjean as a gift, then gives him even more, securing that Valjean be released. Moved by the Bishop's grace, Valjean breaks his parole, vowing to start an honest life helping others under a new identity and he really performs his vow from then on. Had the Bishop told the truth, Valjean would have been arrested and sent to prison, which would definitely ruin a person.
Another example that could be used to justify that circumstances determine wether people should tell the truth or not is a story by Kathryn Forbes. The narrator actually lives in an impoverished family. One day she is filled with fear when she knows that Jensens in her neighborhood are put out because they cannot pay the rent. She fears that the same thing will happen to her family. But her sister reminds her that they have a bank account. Thinking that their mother always tells them that they have a bank account downtown, the narrator feels a sense of relief. Every time when the family needs money, children will volunteer to do some part-time jobs and Papa will give up tobacco. Children do not want to withdraw money from the bank because they feel that with Mama’s bank account they can live without fear.When the narrator grows up and gets her first check and asks Mama to put it in the bank account, Mama says they do not actually possess a bank account. In this story, Mama lies to her children about the bank account when time is difficult because she does not want to make her children worry and she knows that it is not good for little ones to be afraid, to not feel secure. When children grow up and have ability to earn enough money, Mama chooses to tell them the truth.
Examples from O.Henry’s story, the last leaf, the behavior of the kind Bishop and Mama’s white lie can illustrate that if we want the world to move in the right direction we must understand that in some situations we should not tell the complete truth。