By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by: Caroline Lee
Big Little Lies is about bullying, in every sense of the word. Liane Moriarty intimidates (bullies) those who think they are novelists. Caroline Lee offers a bully performance of an expertly written novel. “Big Little Lies” exposes men with delusions of grandeur, and lies of omission and commission
Moriarty sustains suspense about adult bullies by building a story about the origins of human cruelty, a murder, and a murderer. There is no definitive answer about the origin of bullying, but Moriarty infers heredity and environment play a part.
Jane, at 19, is sexually assaulted by a successful married developer. The developer is rich, handsome, powerful, and seductive. Jane is attracted like a moth to a flame. Just before sex, the married developer shows himself to be a crude bully, an intimidating cad. Jane is raped in a hotel room. The married developer calls Jane fat and ugly. Jane becomes pregnant. The combination of guilt and shame prevent Jane from disclosing the rape.
Ziggy is born. Jane loves her son but carries guilt for her flirtation; accompanied by shame from the horrible comments made by the rapist. The only story she chooses to tell is that she had a one-night-stand with a stranger that she will not name. After being raped (some five years later), Jane is unable to express her sexuality.
Ziggy enters kindergarten at age five. Upon admittance, he is accused by a fellow kindergartener, a little girl, of being hurt. Ziggy denies the accusation but the mother of the little girl insists on an apology. Jane asks Ziggy if he did it. Ziggy says no and Jane believes him, with an element of doubt because of her history with the rapist. Even with this reservation (a post-traumatic stressor), Jane will not ask Ziggy to apologize for something he says he did not do.
At this point, Moriarty cleverly introduces the inkling of a murder. Two other characters are introduced; i.e. Madeline, a divorced and remarried mother of three, and Celeste, a spectacularly beautiful married woman with twins. In the course of the story, Madeline and Celeste become confidants of Jane. However, Madeline, though well-intentioned and a good mother, is a busy body and gossip. Celeste is a husband-abused’ wife.
What Moriarty so beautifully renders is a murder mystery tied to the origins and consequences of bullying. Someone is murdered. It could be Jane. It could be Celeste. It could be the husband of Celeste. It could be a child. It could be one of the mothers or fathers that unjustly blame Jane for raising a child bully. The accompanying question is who is the murderer? Moriarty maintains the mystery and suspense until the end.
James Joyce wrote, “Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of our heart”; i.e. the secret held in Jane’s heart is the rapist that adds the words, “you are fat and ugly”. Rape is horrific but hearing those caddish words shows how evil humans can be and how devastated one can become by bully’s words, as well as, acts.
Dostoevsky’s Father Zossimov tells the soon to be murdered father in The Brothers Karamazov, “Above all, do not lie to yourself.” That is what Celeste, and every woman who stays with an abusive husband does—they lie to themselves; i.e. after every beating, they believe it will get better. Moriarty clearly makes the point that abuse will not get better; it will get worse.
This is a story about bullies and bully behavior. Bullies and bullying come in many forms.
The consequence of bully behavior can last a lifetime. Bully behavior can be hidden. Bully behavior is both born and environmentally influenced. Bully behavior can be deadly. Big Little Lies suggest all of these statements are true.