illustration of the back of main character Lily Owens's head with a honeycomb background

The Secret Life of Bees

by Sue Monk Kidd

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In The Secret Life of Bees, at the beginning of each chapter, is a quote, about bees. I need the meaning of each quote from chapter six to chapter 14. 

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In The Secret Life of Bees, Lily continues to seek the truth about her mother by spending time with the Boatwright sisters. Her fascination with bees has been realized as August keeps bees and is connected to Lily's mother.

6) The quote, which precedes chapter 6, is a reference to what holds the community together. The statue of the Black Madonna is the community's queen and she provides strength - "queen substance" which allows the community to keep going even when life is particularly challenging. Touching the statue reminds the people of the struggles of the slaves to whom the original statue belonged and encourages them: 

The queen ... attracts the workers and direct contact. This substance evidently stimulates the normal working behavior in the hive. This chemical... has been called "queen substance. " Experiments have shown that the bees obtain it directly from the body of the queen.

7) Lily meets Zach, August's godson, and starts to fall for him. June and her long time boyfriend, to whom she refuses to commit, fight over her refusal. The quote indicates how things are not as they seem. Bees make honey and Lily will lick honey off Zach's fingers. Slowly the stereotypes are being replaced by a reality that reveals that Lily is maturing. Bees guide lily so it is only natural for her to equate her own feelings towards Zach with a reference to bees.    

How did bees ever become equated with sex? They do not live a riotous sex life themselves. A hive suggests cloister... 

8) August teaches Lily how each bee plays a crucial role in the hive. Lily is comforted by the bees but also feels the loss of her mother deeply. The beehive is like the community and the women in the community of Tiburon do hold it together. Even Lily touches the statue's heart for comfort. May is still distant and is unable to reconcile herself despite everyone's best efforts.

Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also ... its social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee ... and she will soon die.

August wants Lily to understand how there is so much more to learn and how "You can hear silent things on the other side of the everyday world that nobody else can" if you are willing to learn. Bees have also helped August become the person she is. Lily feels at one with the bees but is starkly reminded that she is also "motherless."

9) Lily feels guilty that she is still deceiving August about her true identity. She speaks to May and asks her if she new her mother "Deborah." It both thrills and terrifies Lily. Life will change dramatically for them all when Zach is arrested and refuses to say who was responsible for throwing a bottle. The sisters have tried to protect May and when she hears the news of Zach's arrest, she is devastated.  

The whole fabric of honey bee society depends on communication-- on an innate ability to send and receive messages, to encode and decode information.

The quote reveals all the possible ways to communicate and how, when we fail, the consequences can be catastrophic. 

10) May commits suicide as she cannot cope with thoughts of what could happen to Zach, even without waiting to hear whether he will be released. May is like one of the bees which doesn't survive its expected lifespan but she does share some useful advice.

A bee's life is but short. During spring and summer...a worker bee, ... does not live more than four or five weeks ... Threatened by all kinds of dangers ...many workers die before 

11) In this chapter Neil will propose to June and this time, she will accept. In life some things are worth doing and, even though May’s death is heart-breaking, everyone can learn something from her. The way August comforts Lily when she talks about her mother, allows Lily to release emotions that surprise her.   

It takes honeybee workers ten million foraging trips to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey

12)Lily's mother could not able to stay with Lily's father and she left him, leaving Lily behind. August tells Lily that her mother realized that she could not live without Lily and, realizing her mistake, went back for her. Lily's mother was unequipped for motherhood and had no support from Lily's father, whom she married because she was pregnant with Lily. Like the queen, Lily's mother lacks certain instincts.

If the queen were smarter, she would probably be hopelessly neurotic. As is, she is shy and skittish, possibly because she never leaves the hive, but spends her days confined in darkness, a kind of eternal night, perpetually in labor. ... Her true role is less that of a queen than mother of the hive, a title often accorded to her. And yet, this is something of a mockery because of her lack of maternal instincts or the ability to care for her young

13) As the reader reaches the end of the book, he or she can contemplate on the lessons learnt and the influence the bees have had. Lily is realizing that she is a strong person and takes much courage and strength from August and from all the women in her life.

A worker [bee] is just over a centimeter long and weighs only about sixty milligrams; nevertheless, she can fly with a load heavier than herself.

14) Lily will find peace and she will be able to continue her mother's legacy. Lily will also maintain May's wall and pray to the statue. She is the "new queen" and the community will therefore not suffer as she will help to keep the people strong. Even Zach will be able to face the taunts, bravely, from the other children because he has Lily's support. 

A queenless colony is a pitiful and melancholy community; there may be a mournful wail or lament from within. Without intervention, the colony will die. But introduce a new queen and the most extravagant change takes place.

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