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 are some similarities between Lily in The Secret Life of Bees and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In addition to examples given in the previous answer, another similarity between these two characters is the fact that they are both white girls that end up in storylines in which they learn about the complexities of the African American experience, and racism in America.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout witnesses the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man who was falsely accused of raping a white woman named Mayella Ewell. Over the course of the trial and its aftermath, Scout learns about segregation and the toxic and often violent nature of racism.

In The Secret Life of Bees, Lily also sees the violent nature of racism, as she witnesses firsthand the beating and arrest of her African American caretaker, Rosaleen, when she tries to register to vote. As the story moves on, over time Lily forms meaningful relationships with the Boatwright sisters and learns a lot about their life experiences and about prejudice in her relationship with June. Additionally, Lily and Zach get close to having a romantic relationship, but decide to hold off because of the possible repercussions of being an interracial couple.

There's also the fact that both girls live in the Southern US— Scout in 1930s Alabama, and Lily in 1960s South Carolina. Both of these settings make a lot of sense for plot lines with that focus on racial tension.

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Both of these girls are at a critical time in their lives. Scout is entering school for the first time, and Lily is entering adolescence with its endless questioning of life. Both girls have lost their mothers, but in radically different ways. Both have an African American maternal figure in their lives, Calpurnia for Scout and Rosaleen for Lily. Both have an antagonistic influence in their lives to conform to the accepted standards of their day. Lily's dad tries to make her conform to a proper girl's life, and Aunt Alexandra tries to make Scout into a young lady. However, the differences between them are much greater.

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