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Themes and Symbols in The Secret Life of Bees

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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 and housekeeper, Rosaleen. Deborah, having an enough of T.Ray’s horrible attitude and evilness left Lily and her husband. She ended up in Tiburon, South Carolina at what is called the Boatwright house, a house full of three African American sisters, named August, June, and May. These sisters are very spiritual and kind people. Deborah, after living with the sisters for several months decides to return to T.Ray and Lily only to take Lily back to live with the Boatwright sisters. When T.Ray enters his room to Deborah packing her bags with Lily, he hits her and starts screaming at her. Lily, hides in the closet, sees a gun, picks it up and fires it. The bullet hit Deborah and kills her. Lily was only four at the time and unable to understand what she had done.
Lily calls her father T.Ray because she believes he is not a real father to her and does not deserve the title “dad.” After ten years of putting up with T.Ray’s verbal abuse, Lily and Rosaleen decide to pack up and leave town. On their journey, they run into horrible racism where Rosaleen g...

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...or Lily’s journey toward a much larger female community. At the Boatwright house, Lily sees how strong women support, tend to, comfort, encourage, and love on another by seeing the bonds between the Daughters of Mary.
The Secret Life of Bees shows the importance of storytelling. Lily loves to read and she realizes the importance of storytelling as a way to escape tough situations. Early in the novel, Lily remembers two memories relating to reading. One time, T.Ray makes fun of her for reading saying she’s a nerd and another time where a teacher praises her for reading. She recognizes that books are a great way of relieving stress and are good ways to learn about what to do in difficult times. Lily wishes to become a writer. August always tells Lily stories to help her learn to love and trust. Through books and stories, Lily sees the possibilities for her own life.
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