We know that the fact that "Lies and Deceit" is a big theme in a book called Big Little Lies is…less than shocking.
This book is crawling with lies and the liars that spread them. We see the whole spectrum—from lies designed to save other people and protect loved ones to delusional, personal lies designed to help people cope with their own trauma to lies spread unknowingly via the all-powerful Pirriwee rumor mill.
Big Little Lies doesn't let us forget one simple fact: pretty much all of us lie. If not to other people, than definitely to ourselves.
Madeline is the most truthful character in the book, and that is why she is seen as confrontational.
The stark class divisions in Pirriwee help make it a hotbed of lies and deceit because the lower classes are being oppressed.
Pirriwee is a hotbed of rumors—and you'd better believe a lot of those rumors have to do with doing it.
Whether the town gossips are talking about the impact of the new French nanny, the love lives of wealthy Pirriwee Public parents, or who looks best dressed up like Audrey or Elvis, sex is on everyone's minds.
But a lot of the sex that Big Little Lies covers is marred by the ugliness of violence. Celeste's life is full of sex that comes on the heels of assault, and Jane is only beginning to recover from the trauma of a rape that occurred years prior. This book asks us repeatedly to ponder the ways that violence can shadow a sex life.
Big Little Lies portrays sex and sexuality as forces that are often tinged with darkness.
Big Little Lies show us that sex is, in many ways, the opposite of violence.
Big Little Lies is about the many, many different kinds of families. There are single moms, like Jane, who stays in close contact with her own mom and dad. There are traditional nuclear families, like Celeste's, whose twins are the product of a whole lot of trying, wishing, and hoping. And there are sprawling blended families, like Madeline's, where stepdads clash with stepdaughters and ex-husband's new wives are viewed as enemies…before being accepted as part of the fam.
The only thing that these families have in common? They're all complicated and drama-filled. Tolstoy was right: unhappy families are unhappy in their own, distinct ways.
Friends are portrayed as a kind of family in Big Little Lies.
Big Little Lies makes one thing clear: no bond is as strong as that between family members.
The phrase "and they lived happily ever after" doesn't quite work in the context of Big Little Lies.
Take Madeline. Her first husband ran out on her and a weeks-old baby to go kick it on a beach in Bali. Her second husband Ed is amazing, but it would be a big little lie to say that they were 100% happy 100% of the time.
Or take Renata. She's one half of a Pirriwee power couple, until it’s revealed that her hubby is having an affair with the nappy. (How cliché.)
And, of course, there's Celeste. She married a handsome, super-rich guy that she was head over heels in love with…only to find out that he's a psychopath with a violent streak.
Yeah. Wedding bells do not equal everlasting happiness.
Big Little Lies portrays the bond of co-parenting as stronger than marriage.
In Big Little Lies, marriage is portrayed as being old-fashioned and obsolete.
Big Little Lies knows the importance of finding BFFs. Although Jane, Madeline, and Celeste are very different people—with different interests, hobbies, careers, and backgrounds—they're bound together.
This has a bit to do with the fact that they're raising kids that are approximately the same age, a bit to do with the fact that they like talking trash about the Blond Bobs, and a bit because they're all just kind, funny, interesting women. But their friendship isn't portrayed as 100% roses and sunshine: they feel envy, frustration, and annoyance with each other. Sometimes they disagree.
But in the end, they have each other's backs. Because that's what friends are for.
Big Little Lies portrays friendship as being as bonding as marriage.
The friendships in Big Little Lies are formed almost exclusively by proximity; these women have nothing in common with each other.
We're going to get real for a second: Big Little Lies is full of horrific violence. No, there's no blood or spilling guts, but there are instances of vivid physical and verbal abuse.
The violence in this novel is a family affair, passed on from father to son. A young kid can learn to hurt and humiliate just as easily as they can learn to read or play soccer—if one parent is abusive, there's a far higher chance that the child will be as well.
But it's not all darkness and despair in Big Little Lies. The characters who confront violence and grapple with its impact, both physical and psychological, learn to heal and cope with their histories of trauma.
Big Little Lies suggests that psychological violence can be even more damaging than physical violence.
Big Little Lies suggests that abusers cannot be rehabilitated.
"Women" had better be a theme in Big Little Lies—the three protagonists and most of the supporting characters are all ladeez.
But this novel is especially women-centric because it's a meditation on female friendship and motherhood. Madeline, Celeste, and Jane are three very different women brought together by chance and proximity. They soon become close friends, bound to each other, in part, because they're all navigating the trenches of motherhood together.
When we gain access to the women's interiority, we see a ton of female-coded problems: issues with identity, presentation, aging, and the threat of violence. They're complex, multi-faceted individuals who consider the implications of being female in a world that still—somehow!— undervalues women.
Big Little Lies shows that female friendships become stronger when faced with adversity.
Madeline is undervalued because she presents as hyper-feminine.
Shocker, we know: a novel set in the orbit of a kindergarten has something to do with youth.
It's not just the five-years-olds whose youth is of note in Big Little Lies, however. Jane's youth is notable because she's so mature. Abigail's youth is notable because she, um, thinks she's so mature. Madeline mourns her lost youth, and Celeste is deeply concerned about making the wrong impression on her young sons.
At the end of the novel, everyone is a little older and a little wiser.
Big Little Lies shows children as being fundamentally innocent.
Big Little Lies makes no connection between youth and innocence.