Gideon Mack is a self-confessed “charlatan” who becomes a Church of Scotland Minister despite the fact that he is agnostic and is not a man of religious faith at all. Throughout his life, he is able to lie about his true beliefs and fool people into believing that he is a devout Christian and a man of God.

In this life I have lived behind a mask, adapting my disguise as circumstances required. For nearly forty years I have let the world assume that I believed in God when I did not

Gideon admits that he is a “hypocrite” who preaches Christian values and Biblical principles to his congregation and yet does not believe in them or live his life by them, as shown by his affair with Elsie, a married woman.


Gideon’s ability to deceive others by adopting different personas is apparent from his childhood. He compares himself to a chameleon - altering his behaviour depending on who he needed to impress. At school, he behaves in a manner which enables him to better fit in with his peers; yet at home he is able to convince his parents that he is a very polite, proper and devout Christian boy.

These different personas are reflected in the language Gideon uses - formal English at home and in class, broader Scots in the playground. As he notes:

It all depended on whom I needed to impress: my parents, my teachers or my peers.

As a boy Gideon deceives his father, hiding the fact that he is borrowing modern fiction from the library, and keeping the sound turned down while he watches Batman on a Sunday.

Marriage and affair

Gideon’s dishonesty is demonstrated in his relationship with Jenny, whom he marries under false pretences.

Before they are married, Gideon already lies to her - denying that he fancied Elsie and claiming that Jenny was the one I wanted to be with.

Gideon is aware that he is lying but it seems to happen without his control:

I don't know why I said these things, expect that it was easier than telling the truth.

He admits that I did not love Jenny as I should have and that Elsie Moffat is the woman that he always wanted. Furthermore, for 10 years he and Elsie are able to keep their illicit affair a secret from John.