Study Guide

Big Little Lies Women and Femininity

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Women and Femininity

"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.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Could Big Little Lies be gender-swapped? How would that impact the story? 
  2. Does Madeline experience violence in the same gendered way as Celeste and Jane?
  3. How have the women defined themselves as mothers?
  4. What are the particular challenges Madeline faces in raising daughters?

Chew on This

Big Little Lies shows that female friendships become stronger when faced with adversity.

Madeline is undervalued because she presents as hyper-feminine.

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