Study Guide

Big Little Lies Youth

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Forty. Madeline Martha Mackenzie was forty years old today.

“I am forty,” she said out loud as she drove. She drew the word out in slow motion, like a sound effect. “Fooorty.”

She caught the eye of her daughter in the rearview mirror. Chloe grinned and imitated her mother. “I am five. Fiiiive.” (2.1)

Like mother, like daughter. The love of singing ridiculous age-based songs transcends age. On a more serious note, Madeline is a little mournful about turning the big 4-0 and losing her claim to youth.

“Oh, calamity, thought Madeline.

Wonderful. She’d just made friends with the mother of a little thug. He’d seemed so cute and sweet in the car. Thank God he hadn’t tried to choke Chloe. That would have been awkward. Also, Chloe would have knocked him out with a right hook. (7.1)

Again, Chloe is a wee bit like her mommy. She's fierce, and isn't going to take any guff. It seems like Madeline believes that you're never too young to learn how to stand up for yourself.

Feel so blessed . . . A beautiful experience. This from a fourteen-year-old who whined if she was asked to set the table. Her daughter was starting to sound just like Bonnie. (8.12)

Teenage Abigail is rebelling—shocker. But what really gets Madeline is that she isn't idolizing a pop star or YouTuber. She's idolizing her young, cool step-mom.

But all sleeping children were beautiful. Even really horrible children probably looked beautiful when they slept. How could she know for sure that he hadn’t done it? Did anyone really know their child? Your child was a little stranger, constantly changing, disappearing and reintroducing himself to you. New personality traits could appear overnight. (10.16)

Youth is beautiful, and it definitely appears sweet and innocent. But Jane is really concerned about whether the appearance of sweetness hides a violent streak. She's realizing that children are still forming, changing constantly, and capable of delivering nasty surprises.

“I actually met the victim’s mother yesterday when we were getting the boys’ uniforms,” said Celeste. “Renata. She’s telling her daughter to avoid having anything to do with Ziggy and she suggested I tell my boys the same.” (14.3)

Renata is trying to protect the youth…at the cost of alienating a young boy. Celeste is considering both sides of this equation—she definitely doesn't want her boys being influences by a violent individual. (Um, too late.)

“Jane looks about twelve years old to me,” said Ed. “Abigail seems older than her. I can’t get my head around her being a fellow parent.”(16.4)

Jane is twenty-four, way younger than most of the other moms. And she's reserved and shy, two character traits that underscore her youth and make her seem almost childlike.

Celeste arrived early for school pickup. She ached for her twins’ compact little bodies, and for that all too brief moment when their hands curled, suffocatingly, possessively, around her neck and she kissed their hot, hard, fragrant little heads before they squirmed away. But she knew she would probably be yelling at them within fifteen minutes. They’d be tired and crazy. (21.1)

Young kids are adorbs…and maddening at the same time. Celeste paints an accurate picture of parenthood. She yearns for her sweet little boys, but also really would like them to grow up now, thankyouverymuch.

“She’s fast. I’ve seen her in a race with Dad at the beach, and Bonnie is, like, much younger than you, Mum.” (24.9)

Ouch. Abigail knows how to hurt her mom, who's upset about turning the big 4-0. Abigail is also exposing her own youth: she hasn't yet learned the important art of being tactful.

“Fine,” said Nathan. He spoke in a rush: “Abigail is auctioning off her virginity to the highest bidder as a way of raising awareness for child marriage and sex slavery. She says, um, ‘If the world stands by while a seven-year-old is sold for sex, then the world shouldn’t blink an eye if a privileged white fourteen-year-old girl sells herself for sex.’ All the money raised will go to Amnesty International. She can’t spell ‘privileged.’” (57.4)

Abigail is young. She thinks that her virginity-selling project is noble and selfless, when really it's profoundly dangerous and stupid.

“Perry’s face changed, cracked open. “The boys have never—”

“They have,” cried Celeste. She’d pretended so very hard for so very long and there was nobody here except the two of them. “The night before the party last year, Max got out of bed, he was standing right there at the doorway—” (71.17)

Young people learn from the actions of older people. This is tragically underscored by the fact that Max learns to assault women from his wife-beating father.

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