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Themes And Symbols In The Secret Life Of Bees

1460 words - 6 pages

Written by Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees is about a fourteen-year-old white girl, Lily, who lives with her father after accidentally shooting her mother when she was only four years old. She is nurtured by her nanny and housekeeper, an African American named Rosaleen. Lily lives with the guilt of killing her mother. After times in Sylvan, South Carolina get tough, having to deal with Lily’s evil father and the horrible racism, Lily and Rosaleen decide to pack their belongings and leave.
The novel starts off in Sylvan, South Carolina in 1964, a time when African Americans started earning their rights. Lily lived with her mom, Deborah, father, T.Ray, and her African American nanny ...view middle of the document...

The symbols and themes include beehives, photographs, a black Mary, the power of female community, and the importance of storytelling.
Beehives, although they usually do not have much of a meaning in our everyday lives, play a very big role in The Secret Life of Bees. August, the owner of the Boatwright house and also the oldest sister, tends the beehives. August makes, jars, and sells the honey. In the novel, the beehives are the figurative parallel to the community August has made in the pink house, the family home. Bees live, work and make honey in their beehives. In August’s family and community, women have power just as how the female bees have power in the beehive. The Boatwright sisters are very spiritual women. They have created the group called “Daughters of Mary,” a small group of women who worship a black Mary statue. Just as the Virgin Mary is the mother of all the women she is close to, the queen bee is the mother of every other bee. Beehives are very sensitive and the bees have certain procedures that help protect their home. “All bees in a hive have a job, and if all bees do not do their job, all bees die” (Slate) August and her community have certain rituals that help keep the members healthy. The rituals that August and her community follow are very crucial, especially when one of the sisters, May, commits suicide. Beehives are very symbolic in the novel and by the end of the story, Lily becomes an expert beekeeper.
Bees are also a very important symbol in The Secret Life of Bees. Bees serve as Lily’s silent guides throughout the novel. Bees fly into Lily’s room in the beginning of the book and show her that she should leave. Lily ends up following this trail of honey jars, that end up being August’s honey jars, all the way to Tiburon. When she arrives at the Boatwright house, August asks her what she loves and Lily lists bees. Bees symbolize rebirth, exploration, sexual maturation, and personal growth, all of which we notice in Lily throughout the novel. Bees play a major role in Lily’s life. They help her realize she is in love with August’s family friend, Zach. This realization occurs when Lily licks honey off of Zach’s finger. Lily lets the bees rest on her body and when she does this, she realizes she loves August and how grateful and lucky she is to have such an inspiring mother figure in her life. Lily finds that the bees’ secret lives are similar to her own life. Their diligent care for their mother, their continuous ability to keep going, and their ability to survive inspire Lily. The bees’ community helps Lily to understand the power of the human community and how important it is to surround yourself with good people.
Photographs in the novel symbolize the power of relationships. Lily owns only one picture of her mother. When Lily looks at the picture, she sees Deborah’s lost potential. Lily holds and takes care of the photograph like a baby/ This connects Lily’s hope and desire that she might someday find and...

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