Big Little Lies Discussion Questions (Contains Spoilers)

**Disclaimer** The questions were issued by the publisher. I did not write them nor do I have any rights on them.

1. At the beginning of the novel, Madeline is enraged over Ziggy not being invited to Amabella’s birthday party. Why do you think Madeline becomes so angry about such a seemingly small injustice? Do you think Madeline is the kind of person who just looks for a fight, or do you think she was justified in feeling so upset? And do you think that by tackling both ends of the spectrum —from schoolyard bullying and parents behaving badly in the playground  to displays of domestic violence in all its incarnations—that the author is trying to say something about the bullying that happens out in the open every day?

While I believe that Madeline is very strong willed and passionate, I do not think she was looking for an argument. I think she realized that excluding a child is wrong. It’s one thing for a child to do something (and he didn’t even do it at that), but for an adult to do it.. It’s just outrageous. The whole thing should have been just let go! I could see why everybody was incensed. Renatta took it too far on more than one occasion.

2. There is a lot of discussion about women and their looks.  On the beach Jane’s mom shows that she has rather poor body image. Jane observes that women over 40 are constantly talking about their age.  And Madeline says, “She didn’t want to admit, even to herself, just how much the aging of her face really did genuinely depress her. She wanted to be above such superficial concerns. She wanted to be depressed about the state of the world….” [p. 82] Do you think this obsession with looks is specific to women, particularly women of a certain age?   Why or why not?

I don’t think it is specific to just women. There’s a YouTuber I used to watch frequently named Shane Dawson who has a lot of body image issues. I also do not think it goes with any certain age. I do feel that women are conditioned at a very young age that we have to look a certain way and look that way forever and that once we age we become useless. It was worse in the past, but it hasn’t went away.

3. There are a lot of scenes in which the characters say they wish they could be violent: Jane says she wants to throw Ziggy into the wall when he has a tirade in the bathtub, that she would hit Renata if she was in front of her, and then she stops just short of kicking Harper. Do you think the author is trying to show the reader Perry’s side and have us sympathize with him? Or, rather, that feeling violent is a natural impulse but one that people learn to suppress?

It may have been her intention, but I doubt it. Anger is an emotion that we all fall victim to. None of us are innocent. I think the point is that sometimes it would be easier to just let the anger out with aggression. Sometimes it just feels more just. However, most of us realize the damage that getting aggressive would cause.

4. When Ziggy has to do his family tree, Madeline comments, “Why try to slot fractured families into neat little boxes in this day and age?” [p. 184] A lot of Madeline’s storyline is about the complications that arise from the merging of new modern families. What kind of problems exist among families and extended families now that didn’t when you were a child?

I’m not really sure that I can fully answer this question properly. I’ll try my best. I think it’s more common for people to have children out of wedlock these days. To me, that sounds really dated. I can’t think of a better way to say it. Not all siblings have the same set of parents. More so now than when I was a kid. I can’t think of anything else.

5. When Jane recounts what happened the night she got pregnant, she focuses on what the man said rather than on what he did. Why does Jane feel more violated by two words—fat and ugly—than by the actual assault? Jane seems to think the answer is “Because we live in a beauty-obsessed society where the most important thing a woman can do is make herself attractive to men.” [p. 196] Do you agree?

I do. I watched a video recently that compares little girls toys to little boys toys. The toys for girls are focused on beauty and fashion. The toys for boys are focused on superpowers and being the best you can possibly be. If you want to be noticed and respected as a woman in most places, you have to be completely into whatever latest fashion there is and constantly wear makeup and other product every waking moment.

6. The power of secrets is a theme throughout the novel. Jane remembers, “She hadn’t told anyone. She’d swallowed it whole and pretended it meant nothing, and therefore it had come to mean everything.” [p. 220] Do you think this is a universal truth, that the more you keep something secret, the more power it takes on?

I do. I have noticed that I tend to obsess over the thoughts I have. They circle through my mind constantly and make me crazy. When I articulate my thoughts into words to somebody else, it’s like it leaves me. I feel lighter and not as weighed down with the thoughts. It’s why I feel such a connection to Jane. I get where she’s coming from with her thoughts and opinions.

7. Gwen, the babysitter, seems to be the only one to suspect what is going on with Celeste and Perry. Celeste then realizes she’s never heard Gwen talk about a husband or a partner. Do you think the author intended to intimate that perhaps Gwen had had an abusive husband or partner and that she left him?  And in light of what happens at the end with Bonnie, do you think it’s only people who have personally experienced abuse who pick up on the signs?

I believe so. I don’t believe that it has to be just other abused victims. I believe that there are some people on earth who are more intuitive than others. I find that I sense things off others easily. Sometimes it becomes hard to keep it to myself. It’s hard not to act on the things I feel about certain things.

8. At one point Jane thinks she and Ziggy will have to leave Pirriwee because “rich, beautiful people weren’t asked to leave anywhere.” [p. 362] Do you think different rules apply to rich people? Do you think being rich allowed Perry to get away with things longer than would have been likely if he hadn’t had money?

I do. I don’t think that Ziggy was automatically accused of bullying due to his class. However, I do think that if it had been a more well off child that was accused, there would have been investigating into the incidents before the child was automatically considered guilty. Perry basically gloated many times on the fact that he could buy his way out of any trouble he had. If Ed or Nathan had done some of the things Perry did, they’d be locked up quickly.

9. Bonnie says, “We see. We fucking see!” [p. 421] Were you surprised to learn about Bonnie’s history?  Were you surprised to discover that all along Max had been seeing what Perry was doing to Celeste?

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Max had witnessed it. Children see and understand far more than we think they do. I was surprised about Bonnie. It definitely made me see her in a new light. I think she should have had more of a role in the story, but I get why she was more of a background character.

10. What did you make of the interview snippets to the reporter? Do you think the author used them almost like a Greek chorus to make a point?

I really enjoyed them. I feel like it added a nice enhancement to the story.

11. Madeline muses, “Maybe it was actually an unspoken instant agreement between four women on the balcony: No woman should pay for the accidental death of that particular man. Maybe it was an involuntary, atavistic response to thousands of years of violence against women. Maybe it was for every rape, every brutal backhanded slap, every other Perry that had come before this one.” [p. 430] And then Madeline thinks, “Sometimes doing the wrong thing was also right.” Do you agree with this statement?  Do you agree with what the women decided to do?  Do you think there’s a stronger bond between women than there is between men?  Were you surprised that women who ostensibly didn’t like one another—Madeline and Bonnie, Madeline and Renata—ended up coming together to help one another out?

I’m not sure how exactly to answer this question. I can’t say they were wrong for what they attempted to do. I completely get and understand why. Not only was everybody shocked with all the information thrown in their faces, but they also saw what he did. It was so obvious that wasn’t the first time he hit her. They also saw he had no remorse at all. He didn’t have remorse for practically raping Jane. However, I think they should have been completely honest. Bonnie didn’t intend to kill Perry. She snapped. She saw how he was behaving and just went to shove him like anybody would when somebody has upset them. Especially with what she went through. I’m not justifying what she did. It was wrong. She felt bad for it.

12. At one point in the book, Susi says that, in Australia, one woman dies every week because of domestic violence. In the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day. Every nine seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten.  Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than that caused by car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Are you surprised by these statistics? Why or why not?  Clearly, the author chose Celeste—the picture-perfect mom and/ wife as well as an educated lawyer—to be the victim of domestic violence in order to make a point. Do you think it’s plausible that someone like her would fall victim to abuse such as this?

I’m not surprised. I was a victim of domestic violence numerous times. I was lucky. I had somebody who saved me from myself. I thought I deserved everything I got. I thought I was worthless. I sometimes think I chose people subconsciously who treated me that way because I thought that was all I’d ever deserve. I think the author chose her to prove that it can happen to anybody. Just because somebody’s life seems perfect, doesn’t mean it is. Looks can be quiet deceiving.

13. Madeline comments that “there were so many levels of evil in the world.” [p. 433] Discuss the implications of this statement in light of the novel and the novel’s different storylines.

I’ll try my best here. There’s the people like Renatta’s nanny who manipulated people to get her way and get money. There’s people who abuse and bully others who they feel they are stronger than to feel power. I could go on, but I don’t think my heart could handle it.

Personal Note: Domestic Abuse, Sexual Abuse, and Bullying are nothing to be ashamed of. Our silence is the predator’s greatest weapon. If you are a victim, please reach out to somebody and get help. Don’t let anybody shame you or make you feel bad for coming forward. For those of you who suspect, reach out to the person. Pay attention and see what they aren’t saying as well as what they are.

4 thoughts on “Big Little Lies Discussion Questions (Contains Spoilers)

  1. I adored this book! It was gritty and darker than I had expected but so enthralling. I couldn’t put it down! I think you’re completely right about there being anger in all of us but there being a very clear distinction about having violent-themed thoughts on an impulse and actually being violent. The latter is not okay, at all. Fabulous discussion post Willow! 😀 Jen

    Liked by 1 person

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