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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What is one example of foreshadowing that Sue Monk Kidd uses in Secret Life of Bees?

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One instance of foreshadowing occurs in Chapter 9, where the death of May is foreshadowed.  In the scene in question, Zach has been put in jail, which for a black youth in that time and place was bound to be a tragedy, and everyone has managed to conceal this from May, who finds the pain in the world to be nearly unbearable.  May, however, answers the phone, and she learns from Zach's mother about his incarceration.  We, as readers, understand very well that May is not going to be able to deal with this easily, but we are given some lines that tell us that the outcome is going to be very bad.  First, we have Lily observing:

To this day August and June wonder how our lives would have been different if one of them had answered the phone instead of May (185).

May then goes into a nearly catatonic state, and when she seems to be all right, she says she needs to go to her wailing wall. The reader may feel somewhat reassured at this point but then Lily relates,

We watched her go down the porch steps and move into the trees.  In life there are things you can't get over no matter how hard you try, and that sight is one of them. May walking into the trees with a little circle of light bobbing in front of her, then swallowed up by the dark (188). 

Then we understand that May, like her twin, can no longer stand the pain in the world and is going to kill herself.  So, Kidd having foreshadowed this death, we grieve for May in Chapter 10, but we are not at all surprised that she is gone.

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The picture of the black Mary on the jar of honey at the beginning of the novel symbolizes a mother figure. To Lily, it symbolizes her own mother and leads to her search for her mother. Lily finding the jar and the image of Mary foreshadows Lily's search for the truth about her mother and her eventual meeting with August. Lily's relationship with August is foreshadowed to be a mother-daughter relationship. It is clear throughout that August takes on a surrogate mother role to Lily. 

The other important image at the beginning of the story are the bees that are flying around Lily's room. These bees help foreshadow, again, Lily meeting the Boatwright sisters and developing a deep, meaningful relationship with them. 

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