Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees follows the story of Lily Melissa Owens, a fourteen-year-old girl trapped in an abusive household with her terrifying father, T. Ray. After Rosaleen, the family's maid, pours snuff juice on three white men who were bothering her, Lily and Rosaleen decide to run away to Tiburon, South Carolina. In Chapter Four, Lily and Rosaleen arrive at the spectacular house of August Boatwright and her two sisters, May and June. Lily eventually confesses to August that she and Rosaleen are in need of a place to stay, and August agrees to let the two reside there in exchange for household and beekeeping work.
The quote that precedes this chapter is a metaphorical reflection of the Boatwright household: an organized group of women who work together to create a sanctuary and home for each other. They are providers who do not rely on men, as is traditionally expected of women; like male honeybees, human men are relegated to distant positions away from the inner sanctum of their home. By redefining their lives on their own terms and constructing an environment that rejects the often damaging external masculine influences, these women generate a sustainable lifestyle for themselves. This is a welcome relief for the likes of Lily and Rosaleen, who have both faced the destructive forces of male figures with too much unwarranted power.