In The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd , the main character Lily is a girl growing up in the American South. Lily lives a life of isolation and ostracism from her community growing up because of fact that her mother died when she was young—leaving her without...
In The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, the main character Lily is a girl growing up in the American South. Lily lives a life of isolation and ostracism from her community growing up because of fact that her mother died when she was young—leaving her without a feminine example or connection to the community. Lily’s father T. Ray is both unlearned and abusive—physically and emotionally antagonizing Lily during her time at her childhood home.
Chapter 8 takes place once Lily has run away from home. She is finding a new life on the bee farm of the Boatwrights. In chapter 8 when Lily is being introduced to the religion of the Boatwrights and their devotion to the bees, she experiences the idea of the bees being a type of love.
She makes the biblical allusion to the idea of Moses and the ten plagues, specifically the plague of locusts, a story from the tenth chapter of the Book of Exodus. In that passage, Moses is using the plagues, sent from Yahweh, to convince the Pharoh that it was more costly to keep the Israelites as slaves than to simply let them go. While covered in bees in chapter 8, she makes the connection between the plight of the Israelites and her own life,
Let my people go, Moses said. I’d seen the plague of locusts at the movies, the sky filled with hordes of insects looking like kamikaze planes. Back in my room on the peach farm, when the bees had first come out at night, I had imagined they were sent as a special plague for T. Ray. God saying, Let my daughter go . . . (chapter 8)
Like the Israelites, abused and used by the Pharoh—she had been abused and neglected by T. Ray, and like the plagues sent by God in the Old Testament it had been a plague of bees that was a sign for her that she was supposed to go. The symbolism of the bees, as icons of female empowerment and motherhood, goes further in setting her free as they eventually help her to heal in a way that T. Ray could never help her.
That allusion, to Moses and the plagues, shows Lily’s religious thinking about the bees and her journey from home. If her bees are sent by God in the same way that the plagues of Egypt, it means that Lily is, in her mind, meant to be at the Boatwrights’ and the idea of divine ordination of her escape adds a layer of religious significance to her story. Thinking that God, whoever that is, sent the bees to help her escape—helps her to see the value not only in the bees but the significance of her friendship with the women at the Boatwright house.