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The Secret Life of Bees

by Sue Monk Kidd

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Quotes illustrating Lily's development and her feelings about her mother in "The Secret Life of Bees."


In The Secret Life of Bees, quotes illustrating Lily's development and her feelings about her mother include: "I worried so much about whether I was good enough for her." This shows Lily's self-doubt and longing for maternal approval. Another quote, "I realized I was forgiving my mother," highlights her emotional growth and journey towards healing.

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What quotes reveal Lily's feelings about her mother at the start of The Secret Life of Bees?

The very first chapter holds some key answers to this question.  Based on her narration in this chapter, is is obvious that Lily misses her dead mother and still loves her.  More than this, it is obvious she struggles with a deep, deep sense of guilt over her mother's death.

On page 3, for example, she says:

That night I...thought about dying and going to be with my mother in paradise.  I would meet her saying, "Mother, forgive.  Please forgive," and she would kiss my skin till it grew chapped and tell me I was not to blame.  She would tell me that for the first ten thousand years.

It is not unusual for her to think about her dead mother so much.  Any child who experiences this likely does.  The thing with Lily's thoughts of her mother though, is that they seem to stem from both anxiety and loneliness.  It is clear something about her current life is neither stable nor secure.  This lack of security is the foundation for the story.

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What quotes indicate Lily's growth or change in "The Secret Life of Bees"?

The novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a story about a young girl named Lily. In this story, Lily transforms in many different ways.

At the start of the story, Lily lives with her father and nanny, Rosaleen. Lily's life is haunted by the death of her mother and her own inability to remember what happened the day her mother died. After Rosaleen insults members of the town, Lily and Rosaleen try to escape the town and Lily's father.

One quote that shows how Lily changes throughout the novel is,

Knowing can be a curse on a person's life. I'd traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I didn't know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can't ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.

This quote shows that Lily must grow apart from her father and from the lies that she has been told most of her life. By learning the importance of telling the truth and owning her own personal truths, Lily transforms from a young, naive, girl into a young woman.

For more quotes on this novel, please check out the link below.

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What quotes indicate Lily's growth or change in "The Secret Life of Bees"?

In The Secret Life of Bees, Lily is changed when she experiences motherly love for the first time. She grows from an awkward, self-conscious teenager clinging to the hope that her mother loved her, to a confident young adult soaking up the love she receives from her mom’s childhood nanny, August. When we first meet Lily, she is living with her abusive father, held captive by the pain and frustration she feels every day. When her father boldly tells her that her mother left her, she runs out on her own in search for the truth.

My whole life had been nothing but a hole where my mother should have been, and this hole had made me different, left me always aching for something. (p. 293)

Although the answers to her questions are not what she had hoped, she can accept the truth because of the love she receives from August. Through August’s love, Lily finds the courage and confidence to believe in herself and stand up to her father. She realizes there’s a difference between loving a person and loving coke with peanuts, and she begins to thrive in the happiness and freedom that accompanies love and acceptance.

We are so limited, you have to use the same word for loving Rosaleen as you do for loving coke with peanuts. Isn’t that a shame we don’t have many more ways to say it? (p. 140)

I looked down at the picture, then closed my eyes. I figured May must've made it to heaven and explained to my mother about the sign I wanted. The one that would let me know I was loved. (p. 276)

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What quotes indicate Lily's growth or change in "The Secret Life of Bees"?

Lily does change and grow throughout this story, in so many ways.  Here is just one.

In Chapter 4, Lily is talking about T. Ray's attitude toward "colored women," and she confesses that she felt they could not be as smart as her.  Then she meets August and sees how intelligent she is, and says,

...I was surprised by this. That's what let me know I had some prejudice buried inside me (78).

This is evidence of Lily gaining insight into an attitude that she had because of her father, now examining that attitude in light of the evidence.  This is a true example of change and growth.  When we are young, we tend to take our attitudes from our parents or others around us, without thinking about whether they are good or bad.  They just are.  As we venture out into the world, we have two choices. We can hang onto those attitudes, or we can look at the world through our own eyes and come to our own conclusions.  If we hang onto our "inherited" attitudes, we can never change and grow.

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Which quotes indicate Lily's growth or change in The Secret Life of Bees?

This is definitely a coming of age novel, and all through The Secret Life of Bees we see growth in Lily. One of the most important ways in which Lily grows is in empathy, the ability to see the world through the eyes of others.  Let's look at some ways in which Lily has been lacking in empathy and a few quotes that show her growth.

As the story opens, Lily, a white girl living in the rural South, accepts segregation unquestioningly and while the book does not say this explicitly, seems to assume that white people are superior to black people. While she loves Rosaleen, she also looks down upon her in many ways, an attitude that she has by virtue of her upbringing. She never stops to think, really, about the way Rosaleen is treated in town, or wonders much why Rosaleen has not been voting all these years, or questions the fact that Rosaleen must be hospitalized in a black ward in the hospital.  When she and Rosaleen arrive at the Boatwright sisters' house and she overhears June and August talking about her, she comes to understand that June does not want her there because she is white.  She is angry and stunned by this, her first inkling that African-Americans might judge her by the color of her skin.  But as time goes on and the Boatwright sisters, particularly August and May, accept her, love her, and exert their healing powers, we can see the beginnings of her empathy for others, her understanding that she is not the center of the universe, and that other people of other races have feelings just like hers. 

In one scene, August is telling Lily a story about August's mother, and Lily sees "the mix of sorrow and amusement and longing across her face" (143).  Lily thinks, "She is missing her mother" (143). Lily is beginning to have insight into other people's feelings, and perhaps more particularly, she is coming to understand that black people are people just like her.  Both she and August have lost their mothers and miss them. 

At the point at which Zach has been incarcerated, Lily is on the verge of confiding in August about her (Lily's) mother, so she can find out more about her , since she clearly spent some time with the Boatwrights. She understands that August is sick about what has happened to Zach, and she make a conscious decision to wait, not wanting to burden August further right now, setting aside,

...all the things I'd planned to say to August about my mother.  But how could I do that now, with this terrible thing happening to Zach? Everything I wanted to say would have to wait, and I'd go back to the same suspended animation I'd been in before (182).

Lily is growing up.  She understands how August feels, and she is willing to forgo her own satisfaction for the moment, to help someone else. 

There are many examples of Lily's growth as an empathetic person.  At the beginning of the book, she has little or no insight into the feelings or situations of others, particularly those of another race.  But with the healing love of the Boatwright sisters, she manages to transform her own hurts and grievances in a way that makes her a more mature and better human being. 

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What quotes show growth or change in the character of Rosaleen in The Secret Life of Bees?

You might like to focus on the way in which Rosaleen moves in the narrative from being a fugitive from the law, oppressed and beaten for trying to stand up for her rights, to being an accepted and love member of a black household where she is valued for her skills in cooking. The way in which Rosaleen starts off sleeping in the shed outside and then moves in with May and then finally has May's room to herself strongly suggests this, as does the increasing familiarity and friendship that she has with August, May and June. Note how they are described in Chapter 11 as they prepare for Mary Day:

When I got to the kitchen, there were August, June, and Rosaleen, dusted with flour, baking these small one-layer cakes the size of honey buns. They were singing while they worked, singing like the Supremes, like the Marvelettes, like the Crystals wiggling their butts to "Da Doo Ron Ron."

The way in which Rosaleen is presented as working with August and June on grounds of complete equality and familiarity indicates the way that she has changed in her character from being an outsider to finally having somewhere to call home where she can be nurtured, loved and valued for who she is.

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