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What is the internal and external conflict in "The Secret Life of Bees?"

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wildchild1219 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 8, 2008 at 5:46 AM via web

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What is the internal and external conflict in "The Secret Life of Bees?"

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted December 8, 2008 at 7:55 AM (Answer #1)

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Internal conflict is very evident in Lily throughout the novel.  She spends the entire novel fighting within herself over the loss of her mother.  She knows that she was some how responsible for her mother's death but she has blocked the details.  It all happened when she was so young that she doesn't remember the details.  Lily struggles to be accepted by someone.  She feels unworthy of love and kindness, but she doesn't understand why TRay treats her so badly.  Lilly struggles internally to grow and mature enough to accept what has happened to her throughout her life.  May also suffers from internal conflict.  She is depressed and feels somehow guilty over the death of her twin, but the fact that she still lives.  She feels everything deeply and eventually fails to conquer her internal conflict and May drowns herself by placing a rock on top of her chest in the river.   The External conflict centers around race relationships.  During this time in North Carolina was not a good time to be African American.  The Civil Right's Bill had just been signed and Rosaleen tries to register to vote.  She is harassed and ends up getting arrested and beaten for her desire to vote.  There is also external conflict between TRay and Lily.  Several times in the novel we learn that TRay is a mean, vindictive man who punishes Lily.  At the end of the novel he nearly kills her with a knife because she looks like her mother.

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