Study Guide

Jane Chapman in Big Little Lies

By Liane Moriarty

Jane Chapman

We're not being mean, but Jane is...a Plain Jane.

This statement has nothing to do with her looks; it has to do with her presentation. This young mom wears the same outfit—white t-shirt and jean skirt—most days. She wears her hair pulled back in a severe pony. She speaks softly. Her apartment is beyond Marie Kondo-ed.

She has the aesthetics of a minimalist monk. She's Plain Jane.

Good Luck/Bad Luck

Or, at least she is at the beginning of Big Little Lies. When we meet Jane, she's driving her son Ziggy to kindergarten. (The fact that she named her kiddo Ziggy is the first clue that maybe this young mom isn't the kind of person necessarily drawn to a clean lines, white t-shirt kind of existence.) And from there, she has two strokes of luck.

The first is good: she meets Madeline and Celeste, her new besties.

The second is bad: her son Ziggy is accused of assaulting a little girl at kindergarten, and mom and son are almost immediately ostracized by the rest of the parents.

Jane's first instinct is to keep her head down and to avoid all conflict. But because she's friends with firecracker Madeline, that's not going to happen. Madeline addresses the Ziggy scandal head-on, confronting rumor-starting parents and giving Jane some serious support. Celeste's support of Jane is more modulated (it could hardly be more, um, bombastic) and the two start walking and talking each morning. And this has a transformative effect on Jane.

New friends? Was that it? The sea air?

The regular exercise was probably helping too. She and Celeste were both getting fitter. They’d both been so happy when they noticed they didn’t have to stop and catch their breath when they reached the top of the flight of stairs near the graveyard. (35.15)

Jane starts coming out of her shell, inhabiting her body in ways she hadn't before and relaxing into a life with supportive friends. In fact, she feels supported enough to come clean about a huge secret in her part—she was assaulted and verbally abused by Ziggy's father.

Talking It Out

She details her abuse to Madeline, who offers full support. So does Celeste. And because of this, Jane is able to attain some serious breakthroughs, understanding why and how her abuser affected her so much.

"So that's why, if you’re in bed with a man, and you're naked and vulnerable, and you're assuming that he finds you at least mildly attractive, and then he says something like that, well it's…" She gave Madeline a wry look. "It's kind of devastating." (32.19)

And the effect of her talking openly about this is transformative—literally. Jane gets one of those movie makeover haircuts. In fact, she gets the exact same haircut as Audrey Hepburn does in Roman Holiday. (We go into that in a little more detail over in Symbols.)

After she gets this haircut, Jane goes over to her favorite café and gets a pleasant surprise along with her soup—the barista, Tom, that she'd thought was gay, is actually 100% straight. And very much into her.

So Jane's pretty much floating on air when she attends the fateful Trivia Night. She's busy having a wonderful time: she's tipsy, excited about budding romance, feeling her new look, and enjoying the fact of another revelation—it wasn't her son who assaulted a little girl at school, but Celeste's son—when she realizes she's in the company of the man who abused her. And he just so happens to be Celeste's husband.

In the aftermath of Perry's death, Jane continues to blossom. Her son is thriving, her business is growing, and her romance with Tom the barista takes off. Jane's is a happy ending with a dash of realism: you can claw your way out of the sinkhole of PTSD and depression, but only if you're willing to work to confront the past.

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