Study Guide

Big Little Lies What's Up With the Epigraph?

By Liane Moriarty

What's Up With the Epigraph?

You hit me, you hit me, now you have to kiss me.
—SCHOOL YARD CHANT

Pirriwee Public School
where we live and learn by the sea!
Pirriwee Public is a BULLY-FREE ZONE!
We do not bully.
We do not accept being bullied.
We never keep bullying a secret.
We have the courage to speak up if we see our friends bullied.
We say NO to bullies!

What’s up with the epigraph?

There's a BOGO deal on epigraphs; Big Little Lies has two that appear in conversation with each other.

The first epigraph is from the creepiest schoolyard chant we've heard outside of a dang horror movie. The idea is the classic "kiss and make-up"—if a kiddo hits another kiddo, they're forced to kiss the aggrieved party. Especially for cootie-averse small fry, this makes sense…most children would way rather refrain from hitting than be forced to kiss someone.

But when it's applied to grown-ups, or even older children, it starts to warp into something darker. When the idea of kissing becomes attractive, this chant looks like hitting is a surefire way to get a smooch.

Which: ew.

But hey: that's pretty much Celeste and Perry's dynamic. Whenever he hits her, the night ends in passionate sex. He hits her, he hits her, and then he gets to kiss her. And then some.

There was always sex afterward. When it was all over. At about five a.m. Fierce, angry sex with tears that slid onto each other's faces and tender apologies and the words murmured over and over Never again, I swear on my life, never again, this has to stop, we have to stop this, we should get help, never again. (13.19)

Moriarty is suggesting, through the inclusion of this epigraph, that Celeste and Perry's make-up sex has its roots in cultural understanding. Even when we're young enough to be chanting on the schoolyard, we're equating sex and violence…and conditioning children to understand that a) if they want sex, they need to be violent, and b) violence is just a way of showing affection.

And, just to be 100% clear: neither of these statements are true.

Which brings us to the next epigraph: Pirriwee Public's bullying code. This stands in stark contrast to the schoolyard chant. While the official channels are screaming No to bullying! at the top of their bureaucratic lungs, children are still being encouraged to chant chants that glamorize violence.

The end result? Violence reigns, both in childhood and adulthood. It's super freaking ugly, and super freaking true.

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