What does Lily's question and Rosaleen's answer about the Civil Rights Act reveal about them?

Expert Answers
mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 3 of The Secret Life of Bees, Lily and Rosaleen are fleeing and looking for a place to stay for the night. After Lily suggests they rent a room at a motel, Rosaleen looks at Lily and says, "there ain't gonna be a place that takes a colored woman. I don't care if she's the Virgin Mary..."

After this response, Lily asks the question, "Well, what was the point of the Civil Rights Act?" and goes on to assume that the law fixed all the discriminatory practices in the South. Lily's assumptions reveal her naïveté, which is one of the primary themes of the novel.

Rosaleen responds that many white Southerners will have to be dragged "kicking and screaming" to follow the anti-discrimination law. Again, this response reveals a major characteristic of Rosaleen. She's not only literally beaten down in this part of the novel, but she's emotionally beaten down. She does not expect anything from white folks in the South except discrimination. However, she doesn't seem angry about it, particularly when you consider she's helping Lily run away from home.

Rosaleen's world-weariness and Lily's innocence are important motifs that run throughout The Secret Life of Bees, and this exchange is just one example of that.

Read the study guide:
The Secret Life of Bees

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question