Presentation on theme: "The Secret Life of Bees. Setting SETTING The novel is set in South Carolina during the turbulent time frame of 1964. The civil rights movement is well."— Presentation transcript:
Setting SETTING The novel is set in South Carolina during the turbulent time frame of 1964. The civil rights movement is well underway. The author draws from many of her own memories of this time and the profound emotional and political turmoil associated with the civil rights movement and the racial tension of the period.
Characters Lily Melissa Owens Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens is the main character and protagonist of this novel. Lily has lived alone with her cruel father since her mother’s mysterious death ten years ago. Lily’s black housekeeper and mother-figure, Rosaleen, is unfairly jailed for defending herself against racist, white men. Lily helps her escape and brings Rosaleen on a journey, in which Lily tries to learn about her mother. Rosaleen Rosaleen becomes the Owens family’s housekeeper after Lily’s mother dies. She is a large, African-American woman who is not certain of her age. Rosaleen becomes like a mother to Lily.
Characters August Boatwright August is a beekeeper who lives in a bright pink house in Tiburon, SC. She is an African-American woman and sells Black Madonna Honey. She and her sisters, May and June, let Lily and Rosaleen stay with them. May Boatwright May is August’s very emotional sister. May’s twin sister, April, killed herself when she was fifteen years old. Since then, May is prone to emotional break-downs and spends a lot of time at her “wailing wall.” When May finds out that Zach is in jail, she kills herself. June Boatwright June is August’s other sister, who is not happy to have Lily staying in their house. June is rude to Lily until the day that Lily wets her with the sprinkler that she, May, August and Rosaleen are playing in. June finally accepts Lily, even though she is white.
What’s in a name? Why May, June and August? What are these names symbolic of?
Coming of age is a young person's transition from adolescence to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes place varies in society, as does the nature of the transition. It can be a simple legal convention or can be part of a ritualistic cycle, similar to those once practiced by many societies. In the past, and in some societies today, such a change is associated with the age of sexual maturity (mid-adolescence); in others, it is associated with an age of religious responsibility. Particularly in western societies, modern legal conventions which stipulate points in late adolescence or early adulthood (most commonly 18 and 21, at which time adolescents are generally no longer considered minors and are granted the full rights of an adult) are the focus of the transition. In either case, many cultures retain ceremonies to confirm the coming of age, and significant benefits come with the change.adolescence adulthoodritualisticsexual maturityminorsceremonies The term coming of age is also used in reference to different media such as stories, songs, movies, etc. that have a young character or characters who, by the end of the story, have developed in some way, through the undertaking of responsibility, or by learning a lesson.
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, Lily recounts two memories relating to reading: in one, T. Ray makes fun of her for reading, calling her “Julius Shakespeare.” In another, 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. Lily longs to someday become a writer, and, to this end, Zach gives Lily a notebook in which she can record her thoughts and stories. August tells Lily stories to help her learn to love and trust. Through books and stories, Lily sees the possibilities for her own life.
I’m allergic to bees! Bees serve as Lily’s unspoken guides throughout the novel. In the beginning, they come to her room to relay the message that she should head out on her own and leave T. Ray’s house. Likewise, Lily follows the trail of the honey label to Tiburon—and to the truth about her mother. In Tiburon, she lives in the honey house, and tending bees becomes her occupation. Early on, when August asks Lily what she loves, she lists bees near the top of her list. Bees suggest rebirth, exploration, sexual maturation, and personal growth. They guide Lily, accompany her, and drive her forward. For every important action Lily takes in the novel, bees and their products play a role: from realizing she is in love with Zach (when she licks honey off his finger) to realizing she loves August (when she lets the bees rest on her body). Lily even finds the “secret life of bees” similar to her own life. Their industrious care for their mother, their continuous ability to keep going in work, and their ability to survive inspire Lily. Finally, their reliance on an all-female community resembles her own reliance, and the bees’ community helps Lily understand the power of the human community. For these reasons, bees are the central motif of The Secret Life of Bees.
Why the quote? Why at the beginning of each chapter? An epigraph, or quotation, from a book about bees precedes each of the novel’s fourteen chapters, thereby stitching together the chapters of the novel and relating them back to the overarching motif of bees. These epigraphs give readers a preview of the chapter’s contents. For example, the epigraph to chapter 1 describes the importance of a queen bee to a community, and chapter 1 of the novel introduces readers to Lily, a determined young girl in search of a mother’s love. Similarly, the epigraph to chapter 7 wonders how bees became linked to sex, and chapter 7 of the novel deals with Lily’s burgeoning sexual desire and relationship to Zach. Significantly, the novel contains fourteen epigraphs and fourteen chapters; as the novel opens, Lily has just turned fourteen.
“All I got is a photograph and I realize you ain’t coming back anymore!” Photographs symbolize the power of relationships in The Secret Life of Bees. Lily only has one photograph of her mother, but when she looks at this photograph she sees her mother’s lost potential and her own possible potential, which may or may not be fulfilled over the course of her life. Lily assumes that she will inherit the beauty of her mother. And when she looks at the future, she also sees her beautiful future. In addition, she handles the photograph carefully, as carefully as one would handle a baby; in this way, the photograph represents the hope and desire that she might someday find and feel maternal love. Lily also feels closer to Rosaleen when she discovers that Rosaleen also has a single photograph of her mother. Later, when August shows Lily other photographs of her mother, one of which is of her mother and Lily as a baby, Lily struggles to forgive her mother for being a flawed and complicated person. But, once again, seeing a photograph of her mother makes Lily feel tangibly closer to the deceased woman. In many ways, photographs are the only tangible manifestation of Lily’s powerful love for her mother. Deborah died when Lily was too young to have formed many memories of her, and thus the photograph stands as Lily’s only access to the woman she will never know.
Can the Virgin Mary be black? The black Mary serves several functions in the novel. As the picture, it symbolizes mothers and mother surrogates. Lily carries around a wooden picture of the black Mary, which she found among some objects that once belonged to her mother. This picture literally symbolizes Deborah to Lily, and eventually the picture leads Lily to August, a black woman who will become a surrogate mother. Through August, Lily will learn about Mary, whom August considers to be the mother of all of humanity. Significantly, Lily finds the wooden statue of Mary just seconds before she meets August, another instance of foreshadowing the relationship that will develop between August and Lily. August, along with the members of her group, the Daughters of Mary, worship at the statue every night. As a statue, the black Mary symbolizes the importance of having faith and believing in something larger than one’s self. The black Mary statue also reinforces the importance of storytelling: before meeting August, Lily learned stories from books. But August tells stories, including stories about the origin of the black Mary, to teach Lily important lessons about life.
“Real Black Madonnas” The Black Madonna of Częstochowa, PolandBlack Madonna of Częstochowa The Black Virgin of Montserrat: a copy at Barcelona CathedralVirgin of Montserrat
CONFLICT In The Secret Life of Bees Lily must learn about her dead mother in order to understand her own life.
Secret Lives The major theme of this novel is expressed in its title, which comes from a statement made by August: “Most people don’t have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about” (148). Throughout the novel, the reader learns how most characters are not what they seem on the surface. People’s lives are usually much more complex and complicated than they appear.novel
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 is not a racist in the same way that the group of men that harass Rosaleen are racist, but she does evidence some prejudice and stereotypes at the start of the novel. She 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. For example, she clings to a pair of white gloves that used to belong to Deborah. But although Lily lacks a mother, she does have female companionship. Rosaleen has raised Lily, and Lily looks to Rosaleen for love and support. Rosaleen’s arrest serves as a catalyst for Lily’s journey toward a much larger and more fulfilling female community: the one she finds at the Boatwright house. There, Lily sees how strong women support, tend to, comfort, encourage, and love one another by witnessing the bonds between the Daughters of Mary. Through their examples, and by being included in their group, Lily begins to feel empowered as a woman.
Resolution-Sue Monk Kidd A few days ago a student interviewed me for her high school newspaper. “Could you describe The Secret Life of Bees in one word?” More typically the question is worded: Could you describe the novel in one sentence? Did she say one word? As a rule I avoid trying to squeeze into one sentence, much less one word, what took me three and a half years to write, but I surprised myself by answering “Homecoming”.
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