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1) In The Secret Life of Bees, Lily has never been able to recover from her mother's death and her unexplained obsession with bees- real or imagined - drives her search for meaning and acceptance:
The queen, ... is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the workers very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours, ... they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness.
This first quote reflects Lily's feelings as she carries the burden of her mother's death, even now, at age fourteen, some ten years later. The queen bee is the dominant female in the hive and the "worker" bees fiercely protect her. Lily feels her own "queenlessness."
2) Rosaleen, Lily's carer, is arrested for standing up for herself after being racially insulted. This quote prepares the reader for Lily's decision to help Rosaleen escape so they can both search for answers:
On leaving the old nest, the swarm normally flies only a few metres and settles. Scout bees look for a suitable place to start the new colony. Eventually, one location wins favor and the whole swarm takes to the air.
Lily decides to head for Tiburon because of the picture of The Black Madonna that was her mother's. Lily thinks she will find answers there just as a bee will never go far from the source (in Lily's case, her mother) to find another suitable colony. It is the obvious choice.
3) Once in Tiburon, Lily notices the jars of honey with the Black Madonna on and is intrigued to be told that August Boatwright makes the honey. She and Rosdaleen will seek out this woman.This quote refers to the way a beekeeper will actually locate the queen bee by watching and following the other bees. Lily, searching for information, knows that she must start with August and the link to the bees and the picture of the Black Madonna:
New beekeepers are told that the way to find the elusive queen is by first locating her circle of attendants.
4) They find the house and watch August for a while. Lily is mesmerized by everything that August represents, referring to her as "the Mistress of Bees, the portal into my mother's life." Lily, misleading August, arranges to stay with August and her sisters. The relevance of the next quote can be seen in the fact that it is all women in the house. Lily finds a statue; obviously the Black Madonna, and begins to recognize her own conflicted feelings of love and hate for herself. The relevance of this quote will be revealed later when Lily discovers that the women were friends of her mother and almost involved in the equivalent of "nest building and rearing...' The Boatwright women are all very aware of others, especially May.
Honeybees are social insects and live in colonies. Each colony is a family unit, comprising a single, egg-laying female or queen and her many sterile daughters ... nest-building and rearing the offspring. Males are reared only at the times of year when their presence is required.
5) August does, in fact, keep bees and she allows Lily to accompany her and shows her a queen bee. Bees and honey feature largely as "We lived for honey." The quote at number 4 is reinforced consistently as she learns a lot from the sisters. In the next quote, as Lily adjusts to life in the Boatwright's house:
Let's imagine for a moment that we are tiny enough to follow a bee into a hive...we would have to get used to ...the darkness.
Lily recognizes traits in these women that she vaguely remembers about her mother.
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