Study Guide

Bonnie in Big Little Lies

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A confession: we basically felt the same way about Bonnie that Madeline did. We thought that this Zen calm, yoga-toned, community-service oriented vegan was a total sham. We thought that she was a cypher—the human equivalent of an Instagram of a desert sunset hashtagged #blessed.

And we were ultimately wrong.

Dippy Hippy

But one of the fun things about Big Little Lies is that it allows you to participate in the same eye-rolling that the ever-sarcastic Madeline does. She's our primary character, and we're allowed to see Bonnie the way Madeline does…as a walking, talking, sentient Yerba-Mate-oat-milk latte.

Seriously, this is how the woman approaches Christmas:

Bonnie had arranged for the whole family to volunteer at a homeless shelter on Christmas morning. “I just hate all that crass commercialism of Christmas, don’t you?” she’d told Madeline last week, when they’d run into each other in the shops. (8.13)


And matters are made worse when we realize that she's influenced Madeline's daughter Abigail. Abigail, besotted with all things Bonnie, starts speaking like the copy on the back of an organic box of granola.

Merry Christmas, Mum. Dad, Bonnie, Skye and me all here at the shelter from 5:30 a.m.! I’ve already peeled forty potatoes! It’s a beautiful experience being able to contribute like this. Feel so blessed. Love, Abigail. (8.10)


Warrior Pose

But Bonnie ultimately proves us wrong. In the final pages of the book, we learn that Bonnie's aggressively sweet demeanor is the result of counteracting a wellspring of rage. Bonnie's father beat her mother, traumatizing Bonnie deeply. We can read her whole natural fibers shtick as a response to this, a way of cleansing and purifying the past and believing in the good of humanity.

After all, there are worse things than being a hippie.

We appreciate her when she stands up to Perry, and we end up deeply respecting her when she decides to confess to involuntary manslaughter. Her reasoning for the confession is altruistic, but totally devoid of the usually saccharine "Oh, look at me being so good"-ness she usually trots out. Just check out how she deals with Celeste.

"I would have lied for you," said Celeste. "I can lie."

"I know you can." Bonnie's eyes were bright. "I think you're probably very good at it too."

She stepped forward and put her hand on Celeste's arm. "But you can stop now." (80.13)

In the end, Bonnie does a whole lot of community service as a result of her manslaughter charge, but avoids jail time. We have to say this is a fitting punishment—Bonnie is actually kind of being rewarded, given that her idea of a fun Christmas is waking up at four a.m. to peel potatoes.

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