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The Secret Life of Bees
Transcript of The Secret Life of Bees
- Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
About the Author
"The Secret Life of Bees" received critical acclaim and was a New York Times bestseller and was later adapted into a movie
It spent more than one hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has sold more than four million copies
She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs and the recipient of numerous awards, including a Poets & Writers award
Born and raised in Albany, Georgia
A 2008 American drama film produced by Will Smith with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Released in North America on October 17, 2008
Lily Melissa Owens
A fourteen year old girl who is the novel's protagonist and narrator.
When she was four, she accidentally killed her mother, Deborah
Lives on a peach farm along with her abusive father, T.Ray
Lily's most prized possesions are a few things of her mother's she found in the attic: a picture of Deborah, a wooden picture of a black Mary, and a pair of white gloves
Through Lily, we learn about the racism, love and community among the worlds of Tiburon and Sylvan, South Carolina
Throughout the novel, Rosaleen acts as a mother figure toward Lily. She provides a thoughtful advice or a well-timed pat on the knee.
Lily's nanny and first friend
A black woman who originally worked as a peach picker in the fields belonging to Lily's father
A very large woman who often burps, and speaks her mind clearly, openly, and without self-censorship
Deeply cares for Lily
August 12, 1948 (Age 65)
God's Joyful Surprise: Finding
Kidd's first book
Explores the thrilling
possibilities of God's
When the Heart Waits
autobiographical account of
personal pain, spiritual
awakening, and divine grace
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
A woman's journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine
The Mermaid Chair
A novel about Celtic spirituality, The Sacred Feminine, and God's manifold comings-and-goings
Kidd offers readers an
intimate glimpse into the
early years of her journey
as both writer and
The Invention of Wings
a masterpiece of hope,
daring, the quest for
freedom, and the desire
to have a voice in the
Influenced by Kate Chopin's,
Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping.
The Secret Life of Bees is set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement in the tumultuous summer of 1964. Minority groups in America, especially blacks (African-Americans), believed they were being denied the basic human rights provided for other American citizens (namely, whites) by the U.S. Constitution, through the legacy of slavery and racism that accompanied the formation of this country.
The Boatwright sisters' house, described by Lily as "a house so pink it remained a scorched shock on the back of my eyelids after I looked away"
The Secret Life of Bees
Genre: Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel)
Time and Place Written: 1997-2001, near Charleston, Sputh Carolina
Date of First Publication: 2002
Publisher: Viking Penguin
A middle-aged black woman who welcomes Lily into her home. August lives in a pink house in Tiburon, South Carolina, with her two sisters, May and June. Together, May, June, and August are known as “the calendar sisters.” August works as a beekeeper and honey/beeswax manufacturer on a 28-acre farm she inherited from her grandfather. By selling honey, she supports herself and sisters, as well as Lily and Rosaleen, once they come to stay at her house. August created an alternate religion for herself and her friends based around a statue of a black Mary that has been passed through generations of her family. She teaches Lily about this religion and spirituality in general, as well as about beekeeping and love.
August functions as the spiritual core of the book. Without August, there would be no "of age" in Lily's "coming-of-age"
Sister of August and May and part owner of the Boatwright farm. June finds it difficult to like Lily at first because she resents August’s involvement in the white world as a housekeeper for Lily’s mother. Stubborn and strong-headed, June eventually shows herself to be kind and caring as well.
Sister of August and June and a friend and roommate to Rosaleen. May once had a twin sister, April, who was depressed and committed suicide at a young age.
Since that time, May has become extremely sensitive and prone to depression. When sad, May sings the song “Oh! Susanna” and removes herself to spend time alone by a special wall she has constructed outside the house—her own “wailing wall.”
She eventually kills herself in the river.
A very warm person, May spends most of her time taking care of the Boatwright house by cooking and cleaning for the other ladies
Terrence Ray (T. Ray) Owens
Lily’s father. A peach farmer, T. Ray was once passionately in love with Lily’s mother, to whom he was married.
After his wife left him and later died, he became a bitter and resentful man. He abuses and punishes Lily. T. Ray takes out his general resentment and bitterness on Lily, the product of his lost love.
Lily’s mother. Deborah was shot accidentally by four-year-old Lily. At the time, she had already left Lily and T. Ray and gone to stay with her old housekeeper, August Boatwright, in Tiburon.
Deborah was an attractive and lively woman who became depressed living in Sylvan and had trouble acting as a responsible mother.
Lily’s best friend and romantic interest
He is handsome and has one dimple when he smiles. He is ambitious and hopes to be a lawyer someday, although he has never heard of a black lawyer.
Sensitive Zach forms an attachment to Lily, giving her gifts and positive attention. He works on the Boatwrights’ farm to earn money for college, to buy a car, and to be self-reliant.
A very tall man who courts June Boatwright. Neil helps around the farm but lives elsewhere. He is kind to Lily and one of the few grown men in the novel that is gentle and honest.
The Daughters of Mary
A group of African Americans who have created their own religion, based around the Boatwright statue of the black Mary.
The Irrationality of Racism
The Secret Life of Bees demonstrates the irrationality of racism by not only portraying black and white characters with dignity and humanity but by also demonstrating how Lily struggles with—and ultimately overcomes—her own racism. Kidd moves beyond stereotypes to portray whites and blacks with the multifaceted personalities that we find in real life. Lily assumes that all African Americans are like Rosaleen, an uneducated laborer-turned-housekeeper. Lily imagines that all African Americans are likewise coarse and uneducated. But when Lily encounters unique, educated, thoughtful August Boatwright, she must change her assumptions and combat her prejudice. At first, Lily feels shocked that a black person could be as smart, sensitive, and creative as August. Recognizing and combating her shock allows Lily to realize the truth about the arbitrariness and irrationality of racism. Like Lily, June must also learn to overcome racial stereotypes. As individuals, humans can display a complex array of personality traits and characteristics, regardless of skin color or ethnicity.
The Power of Female Community
Motherless Lily finds at the Boatwright house several surrogate mothers and learns the power of female community. At the beginning of The Secret Life of Bees, Lily longs for her mother and cherishes the few possessions Deborah left behind. She demonstrates an awareness of her femininity and laments that she has missed out on certain female lessons because her mother is dead.
The Importance of Storytelling
Lily loves to read, and she recognizes the importance of storytelling as a way to escape or transcend one’s circumstances. Early in the novel, a teacher praises Lily for being so intelligent and lends her books. Lily recalls books that have meant something to her during times of stress, as when she compares herself to Thoreau’s experiences at Walden Pond on her way to Tiburon. She rightly recognizes that books allow readers to escape into a fantasy world, and she makes up stories about why she and Rosaleen have come to Tiburon. More abstractly, Lily’s adventure with Rosaleen echoes Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: like Huck, Lily sneaks off with an African American friend into nature and to unknown worlds.
“Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates, while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. above all, send bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.”
(August Boatwright, page 146, Chapter 5)
“I have noticed that if you look carefully at people’s eyes the first five seconds they look at you, the truth of their feelings will shine through.”
(Lily Owens, Page 163, Chapter 6)
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
(Lily Owens, Page 166, Chapter 6)
What’s wrong with living in a dream world?
And she’d say,
You have to wake up
(Page 186, Chapter 7)
“I loved him enough,” she said. “I just loved my freedom more.”
(August Boatwright, Page 220, Chapter 8)
“I realized it for the first time in my life: there is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, bowbeat days, shining brightly, and we don’t even know it.”
(Lily Owens, page 108, chapter 3)