Little Fires Everywhere

by

Celeste Ng

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Little Fires Everywhere: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lexie begins to take a shine to Pearl, though both Lexie and Lexie’s friend Serena note that Pearl seems to be “trying not to be seen.” This fascinates Lexie, who pities Pearl because of the way she looks at “everything in [the Richardson] house as if she’d never seen it before.” One afternoon, Lexie brings Pearl along to the mall. Once there, Pearl, realizing she can’t afford any of the designer clothes in the upscale shops, suggests the two of them visit a thrift store.
Lexie, driven by desires both genuinely and falsely altruistic, takes Pearl under her wing. She is just as fascinated by Pearl as Pearl is by the Richardsons—Pearl is shy, meek, and moldable, which are qualities Lexie does not seem to have come across very often.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
Under the guise of being bored by everything at the mall, and thinking everything looks “the same,” Pearl directs Lexie to the local thrift shop, where she teaches Lexie how to shop for deals, switch tags to get discounts, and pick out the perfect thing. Later, Lexie gives some of her own clothes to Pearl after noting that one of Pearl’s new thrift-store skirts would “go great with a striped button-down.” Pearl brings these clothes home along with her thrift store finds, slightly embarrassed to be accepting hand-me-downs but excited to have something of Lexie’s. Pearl is relieved when Mia launders Lexie’s old things along with the thrift store finds and doesn’t say anything about the difference between the two.
Lexie and Pearl’s afternoon shopping trip, though seemingly casual, is full of thematic importance. The mall represents order; the thrift shop represents disruption. Everything at the mall is the same, whereas the thrift store is a melting pot of identities. Pearl shows Lexie this, but still secretly accepts her hand-me-downs, excited to have a piece of Lexie’s identity, and she hopes, by proxy, some of the order and stability it represents.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
Trip also begins to talk to Pearl more and more, much to her delight and embarrassment. He compliments her outfits, telling her she looks “nice,” to which Moody protests that Pearl “always looks nice.” Moody, afraid to be outshone by his brother, uses his savings to buy Pearl an expensive black Moleskine notebook for her poetry.
The Richardsons’ fascination with Pearl doesn’t stop at just Moody and Lexie—Trip, too, begins to notice Pearl as a force of beauty and intrigue. Moody, threatened by this, wants to manipulate Pearl and direct her attention away from his older brother. Here we see signs of Moody’s selfish and competitive nature.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
One afternoon, the carpet in the Richardson house is being cleaned, and the children are told to stay out of the house during the day. Lexie invites herself over to Pearl’s house, and though Pearl is reluctant to have visitors, she agrees. Lexie drives Pearl and Moody to the house on Winslow. When they arrive Mia fights the urge to refuse them, but remembers that she wanted Pearl to make friends. She makes the children popcorn, and the three of them chatter away.
Pearl is afraid to allow the Richardsons, whom she admires, into her home—a home that is very different from theirs, and much less luxurious. The Richardson children, however, always hungry for something different from the orderly, cushy pattern of their lives, love the Warren home. Mia, too, is spooked by the disruption the Richardsons represent; Pearl has not often made close friends in the past, and opening her home to or sharing intimacy with anyone other than Pearl puts Mia on the defensive.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
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Lexie describes her frustration with college applications—her boyfriend Brian is applying to Princeton, where his parents went to school, while Lexie has her heart set on Yale. “Despite her air of frivolity [and] shallowness,” Lexie is very smart. She’s stumped by Yale’s admission essay, though, which asks for students to rewrite a famous story from an alternate point of view. Moody suggests rewriting a fairytale. Lexie thinks that it might be interesting to rewrite Rumpelstiltskin, noting that, in the story, the miller’s daughter “said she’d give him her baby and then reneged,” wondering if the miller’s daughter is actually the villain. Mia advises Lexie to relax her judgment and leaves the room.
The conversation about elite colleges again places the Richardsons as members of the “one percent.” Notably, Lexie’s take on Rumpelstiltskin ruffles Mia’s feathers—and as we learn later, this is because the situation closely relates to Mia’s own past with Pearl. This then seems to add to Mia’s concern over the kind of friends her daughter is making and the effect their friendship and influence might start to have on Pearl.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Pearl offers to write Lexie’s application essay for her, and Lexie is overjoyed. Moody seems irritated by what he perceives to be his sister taking advantage of Pearl. In the next room, Mia cleans her paint brushes in solitude.
Lexie is manipulating Pearl, though she does truly delight in her friendship. Mia has removed herself from view of the situation—and thus seems ready to let events steer their own course.
Themes
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon