When I began reading Little Fires Everywhere, I noticed the notion of privilege is difficult to ignore. The Richardsons ARE privilege, and so much so that it actually becomes harmful to those around them. In fact, I would argue that their privilege is a direct contributor to the misaligned relationship between Elena and Izzy, which as we know leads to the destruction of not only their family, but Mia’s family as well.
Much is made of Izzy’s not being wanted by Elena, and the not-so-subtle blaming of Izzy for Elena’s fizzled journalism career. While it’s true that Elena did not plan to have a fourth child, and that there is some definite resentment wherein Elena sometimes feels she was a rising star, with the possibility of becoming famous and successful, the TV show does not discuss is the fact that Izzy was premature and sickly at birth, which caused Elena to be extremely worried for her well-being well after she should have been “in the clear.” Contrary to the movie, neither Izzy NOR Mia were lesbians. Izzy’s inability to fit in with her peers or within the family dynamic had nothing to do with her hiding this secret.
The book details the early years of Izzy and Elena in a way the movie skims over. The doctors warned Elena that Izzy might have health problems for the rest of her life, and Elena never quite forgot those words. Though the doom and gloom prediction never materialized, Elena saw problems around every corner. If Izzy tripped, Elena immediately assumed it was because Izzy had poor motor coordination. A family of lesser means would have just accepted this and moved on, but because the Richardsons had money to burn, Elena tried to “fix” Izzy by enrolling her in dance. She never explained to Izzy why she felt it was necessary, and never asked Izzy if she WANTED to be in dance. It was a dance recital, NOT a concert, that Izzy chose to act out with the “Not your puppet” inscription across her forehead.
It is my feeling that the crux of the conflict of Elena and Izzy’s relationship rests not on Izzy being unwanted or stunting out Elena’s career, but rather Elena’s constant searching for perceived imperfections is a direct contributor to the explosive ending of the novel.