Study Guide

Big Little Lies Trivia Night

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Trivia Night

Trivia Night is the occasion that organizes the structure of the novel—we know from the get-go that something big is going to go down when the parents of Pirriwee Public are busy talking about the capital of Guatemala, sipping cocktails, and being dressed up like Audrey Hepburn or Elvis Presley.

Which, let's face it, sounds ridiculous and, um...trivial.

That's the point. We're primed for hilarity: after all, this is a school event where middle-aged people wear Elvis wigs and tiaras. It's so desperately uncool and impossible to take seriously.

Mrs. Ponder certainly thinks so. She's the first voice we hear in the novel, an old granny who's seen it all and who looks down her nose at the bizarre habits of the Pirriwee Public parents. In fact, the novel opens with Mrs. Ponder grumbling to her cat.

That doesn’t sound like a school trivia night,” said Mrs. Patty Ponder to Marie Antoinette. “That sounds like a riot. (1.1)

This opening line primes the reader to understand that this book plays with the dark violence (the riot) lurking underneath the calm life of small town parents (the school trivia night). All the swarming evil in this book is happening under the veneer of civilized, family-friendly life.

Our job as readers is to confront that evil, and also to confront the fact that we still might snicker at some of the uncool parental signifiers; we might automatically dismiss all these things having to do with kindergarten life as incapable of concealing real danger. In other words, we have to confront our own bias every time we read the countdown to Trivia Night and automatically think "Ha! Nothing bad could ever happen on Trivia Night…right?"

Because, as we learn in Big Little Lies, all sorts of twisted stuff can go down on Trivia Night.

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