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

The Secret Life of Bees

by Sue Monk Kidd
Start Free Trial

What are some examples of injustice in The Secret Life of Bees?

There are many examples of injustice in The Secret Life of Bees, like the way the white minister denies Rosaleen a fan at church, how Lily is released from jail but not Rosaleen, how Zach is bullied at the white high school, and how April is treated by the store owner.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are several examples of injustice in Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Secret Life of Bees. A notable example is the scene in which Rosaleen enters the white church with Lily. The church does not usually allow people of color, and Lily thinks about how shocking Rosaleen's presence must be to everyone there. She recalls that:

Every time a rumor got going about a group of Negroes coming to worship with us on Sunday morning, the deacons stood locked-arms across the church steps to turn them away.

The enforced racial segregation at this church is a blatant example of how African Americans are treated unfairly. Similarly, when Rosaleen and Lily are arrested, their different experiences bring attention to racial injustice in the criminal justice system. Lily is released but Rosaleen is not and ends up badly beaten.

Zach’s experiences also reveal the many forms of racial injustice. Like Rosaleen, he also has a difficult time with the criminal justice system because of the color of his skin. In addition, recall how he attends the all-white high school in the end of the book. Lily describes how white students ball up notebook paper and throw it at him like it is their pastime. Zach’s adolescent years are more difficult because of racial injustice in his society.

Also, recall how May’s twin April struggled with depression. She had a terrible encounter with a racist store owner that changed her attitude on life. Afterward, her father told her “Nothing’s fair in this world. You might as well get that straight right now,” and August says that this realization made April “deflated about life.” The way this realization about injustice hurt April and how her death hurt May shows how extremely painful racial injustice can be.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team