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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How does the quote at the beginning of Chapter 11 relate to what is happening in The Secret Life of Bees?

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The quote in chapter 11, "It takes honeybee workers ten million foraging trips to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey" portrays the patience and perseverance of honeybees. Similar to honeybees, Lily, Zach, and Neil display patience in their relationships and perseverance in their resolve to connect with the people they care about.

Lily wants so badly to talk with August about her mom, but she chooses to wait until August has processed the grief she feels over her sister's death. She does eventually open up about her mom when the time is right, and embraces the motherly love she receives from August.
Zach confides in Lily how much he cares for her, even though a romantic relationship would be judged by society because of the color of their skin. He tells her, "We can't be together now, Lily, but one day, after I've gone away and become somebody, I'm gonna find you, and we'll be together then." Despite their skin color he is willing to be patient and pursue a relationship with her in the future.
June's boyfriend, Neil, visits her everyday and never stops pursuing her even when she pushes him away. When he proposes to her "for the hundredth time" she finally says yes. Like the honeybees, Neil does not give up on June despite the time and effort it takes to break down the emotional walls she has erected around her heart.
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All that work to produce one result. Both the bees and the women  are working hard for a purpose. The women's purpose is to celebrate Mary Day, or the Feast of the Assumption when Mary died and ascended into heaven. The celebration goes for two days and one night with decorations, food, celebration, worship, and even a long awaited proposal that June finally accepted. All that hard work in such a short time. The celebration, much like Communion, resulted in the sharing of honey cakes as the body of the Queen, Mary. June's engagement to Neil and the culmination of Zach's kiss show the fruits of that labor. Zach vows to become somebody and find Lily to be with. This is the crowning promise of the celebration, a hope for a sweet future.

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