Study Guide

Big Little Lies What's Up With the Title?

By Liane Moriarty

What's Up With the Title?

Celeste spends a whole lot of time lying about a whole lot of things—from telling a fellow kindergarten mama that she bruised herself playing tennis to telling counselor Susi a couple of whoppers because she can't bear to confront the truth.

And, of course, when she's telling other people lies about the extent and extremes of Perry's abuse, she's also lying to herself. When she blithely tells Gwen she has a "tennis injury!" (42.3), she's essentially consoling herself that getting bruised because your husband is assaulting you is comparable to taking a spill on the court.

And just look at the lying going on in this scene:

"When these incidents take place, have you ever been afraid?"

"Well, no. Well, sort of." She could see the point that Susi was trying to make. "Look, I know how violent some men can be, but with Perry and me it's not that bad. It's bad! I know it's bad. I'm not delusional. But, see, I've never ended up in the hospital or anything like that." (33.14)

Hmm. Let's see. We count three lies—two of which are outed as being whoppers right in the dialogue. She says "Well, no" right before she turns that around to become "Well, sort of"—that's Lie #1. The idea that it's "not that bad"? That would be Lie #2. And the statement "I'm not delusional" is, sadly, a delusion—Lie #3.

These are the kinds of little lies that pepper the book—small, offhand statements about abuse not being so bad, dangerous, or scary. These small verbal statements are easy enough to utter, and the "little lies" work together to conceal something super freakin' big: a dark environment of abuse.

And that's not all.

At the climax of the book, Bonnie pushes Perry to his death in an act of involuntary manslaughter. The people at the scene of the crime decide to unite and say they didn't see anything, a little lie that's simultaneously super-huge, legally speaking. Lying to your therapist? That's just not telling the truth. Lying in court? That's perjury, folks.

Luckily, Bonnie decides to come clean and turn herself in. Part of the motive behind this is that she doesn't want Celeste to have to lie anymore. Bonnie is the child of an abused mother, and she knows from experience just how much lying Celeste has been doing. Time for Celeste to stop sporting a Pinocchio nose.

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