What is the significance of August's comment about the honeycomb spinner (on page 77)?What does Lily believe she means?

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

'It separates out the honey,' she said.  'Takes out the bad stuff, leaves in the good.  I've always thought how nice it would be to have spinners like this for human beings...'

Lily has come to August Boatwright's house in search of answers to her mother's death.  What she does not know is that she has arrived in a place which holds far more for her than the answer to this mystery.  What she will really end up finding is a stronger sense of her own identiy.  It is ironic therefore, that the first thing Lily does up arrival is lie to August about who she is.

The significance of the spinner in the honey-making process, is that it basically does all the hard work of purifying and cleaning the honey.  Now consider this from a symbolic viewpoint.  Living and working on August's property is going to be a cleansing and purifying experience for Lily.  Unfortunately, there is no magic machine she can just get in, spin around, and come out whole.  August mentions that she wishes there was such a machine for humans.  Lily, likely thinking of her lie (among other things), assumes August is directly referring to her:

Was I paranoid to think that when she'd said human beings, what she really meant was me?

Ultimately, Lily is about to have a "spinner machine" experience.  And as a result, she will come to view the prejudiced society she lives in differently.  She will come to view family differently.  She will come to view her place in the world differently.

Read the study guide:
The Secret Life of Bees

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