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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Topics for Further Study

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  • Each chapter of the novel begins with a quotation or quotations about bees and beekeeping. Pick a chapter and explain how the quotations from the beginning relate to the events of that chapter. Identify the character in the novel you think is the "queen bee" and explain why.
  • In the novel, there are a variety of references to factual events that occurred in 1964, the year in which the novel is set. Identify one of these references and prepare a news report for the class like the ones the characters watch in the novel, explaining what has occurred.
  • Zach and Lily promise each other that someday they will be together. Write a scene in which they meet today in their sixties. Would they end up together? Would the social conventions that kept them apart before still keep them apart today?
  • Find another creative work—a novel, story, movie, poem, or painting—in which bees appear. What do the bees represent in that work? Explain three ways in which the symbolism of the bees in the work you found is similar to or differs from their symbolism in Kidd's novel.
  • May's wailing wall behind the Boatwright house helps her cope to some extent with the traumas that occur in her life and with life generally. The Boatwright sisters also have their daily prayers and weekly services before Our Lady of Chains as important rituals in their home. What are some examples of rituals, religious or otherwise, in your own home? What functions do they serve? Write a scene that describes your family following these rituals.

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