Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 439

Big Little Lies is a popular novel by Liane Moriarty, published in 2014. It tells the story of three different women in an upscale community in Australia. As the title indicates, the plot is driven by secrets and dishonesty that end up both destroying and forging relationships. I will discuss each of the main female characters and how their story arcs relate to overarching themes.

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Madeline is a divorced and re-married mother of three who seems to have a great relationship with her current husband. However, her ex-husband and his new wife have been exerting a strong influence over her daughter, and Madeline feels distressed and anxious over the way she and her firstborn child have become estranged.

Celeste is also married and the mother of twin boys. She seems to have the picture perfect life; however, she is in an abusive marriage that has both physically and psychologically damaged her. Her struggle in the novel is twofold: first, to hide the signs of abuse from her friends so as not to fall victim to the vicious gossip and judgment of the community and not to tarnish her family's reputation; second, to escape from her abusive marriage and start a new, healthier life.

Jane is the newcomer to the community and is a single mother of a son named Ziggy. As Ziggy tries to acclimate to the new school, he becomes a scapegoat for the other children as he is accused of abusing the daughter of one of the most powerful families in the town. Eventually, it is discovered that one of Celeste's twins is the abuser, having learned that behavior from his father. In the meantime, though, Jane and her son must suffer from the ruthless playground politics at the school and constantly defend their innocence among a group of people who suspect them because they are new in town and Jane is unmarried (her son's father is a mystery to all but Jane herself).

The overlapping plotlines of each of the characters discussed above result in themes such as the following:

1. The power and damage of gossip and rumors in a small community.

2. The ways in which people judge the lives of others without knowing the truth that lies under the surface.

3. The complex family dynamics of a blended family.

4. The detrimental effects of abuse on an entire family and community.

5. The ways in which keeping secrets can affect a person's life trajectory in the short and long term.

Big Little Lies is a real page-turner but one that hits at a number of relevant contemporary themes about family life and the relationships between individuals and their communities.

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Characters