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 three significant passages in The Secret Life of Bees?

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The Secret Life of Bees has a lot of great qualities to it, but the best part is the writing. The author does a wonderful job at describing everything in detail and creating imagery for the reader, which helps with understanding and relating to the characters. Another great thing is that it is based on a true story and during that time period, although not entirely accurate, it still has some historical significance.

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While there are many significant passages in the novel, I have chosen three that show a huge amount of growth and development in Lily’s character.

Lily searches for freedom. Just like the bees trapped in the jar, Lily felt trapped living with T. Ray, until she realizes that she is...

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free to leave. Living at the peach farm, Lily is like the bees trapped in the jar, dying slowly, unable to fly. But once she realizes she can leave, it is like she learned that her jar was opened,

“You could say I never had a true religious moment, the kind where you know yourself spoken to by a voice that seems other than yourself, spoken to so genuinely you see the words shining on trees and clouds. But I had such a moment right then, standing in my own ordinary room. I heard a voice say, Lily Owens, your jar is open. In a matter of seconds I knew exactly what I had to do – leave” (41).

Lily struggles to find her mother throughout the novel. She wants to know everything she can about the woman she never knew, about her life, and what happened to her. Lily feels the lack of a mother’s influence and it has left her broken in many ways, feeling unlovable. August teaches her that she is not unlovable, and that the Mary of Chains has been a stand-in mother for her. She tells Lily that Our Lady (Mary) is not a statue, she’s something that is inside every person,

“She’s something inside of you…You have to find the mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside…You don’t have to put your hand on Mary’s heart to get strength and consolation and rescue, and all the other things we need to get through life…You can place it right here on your own heart. Your own heart” (288). Lily learns that she has the power inside herself to lead her own life and trust herself to make the right choices and have the strength to survive.

Lily’s major quest in this novel is the quest for love. She feels forsaken by T. Ray, who was supposed to love her, but never did. She feels abandoned by her mother, who left her, then came back, but died, condemning Lily to a life stuck with T. Ray. Lily finally finds love and a place of belonging with the Boatwright sisters in the pink house. After T. Ray comes to the pink house to collect Lily and after meeting opposition finally lets her stay, Lily is finally freed from her past. She realizes the truth, that she is loved,

“ I watched until he was gone from sight, then turned and looked at August and Rosaleen and the Daughters on the porch. This is the moment I remember clearest of all – how I stood in the driveway looking back at them. I remember the sight of them standing there waiting. All these women, all this love, waiting” (pg 299).

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