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"There is nothing perfect," August said from the doorway, there is only life" (Kidd 256) "Every person on the face of the earth makes mistakes, Lily ,every last one, we're all so human"(Kidd 256).Lilly had to learn to cope with loss and learn to forgive. The bees led Lilly to a journey of freedom, love, faith and acceptance. Lilly had to leave home to find a home.
"When a bee flies, a soul will rise" (Kidd 206). "To remind each other that when they died they'd be resurrected" (Kidd 206). Bees are used as similes of spiritual transformation all the way through the novel. "In Greek mythology, in which honey is the drink of the gods of Olympus, it is the symbol of knowledge, learning and wisdom , it is a food reserved for the elect, and to exceptional people in this world", also the symbol of all sweetness, the honey of knowledge creates the happiness of mankind."(Mackey).
Lilly Owens lived on a peach farm with her abusive father T. Ray. The story takes place in the 1960's during a time of racial discrimination and the civil rights movement. She did not remember much about her mother except that she had shot and killed her when she was four years old. The only female Lilly had in her life was Rosaleen who took care of her .Rosaleen was African American.
African Americans did not have any rights in the 1960s.They were often thought as ignorant people. White people would hire them to be caretakers of work in the fields or in their homes. John F. Kennedy promised when he became president in 1960, he would end racial discrimination. John F. Kennedy signed the bill of rights in 1964 to give blacks a chance to vote but there was one stipulation, they had to be able to write their name.
Rosaleen worked hard to learn how to write her name. As she and Lilly went into town, she was going to register to vote and three racists stopped her and she poured out the snuff spit on their shoes and the law took her to jail. Rosaleen did eventually get to register to vote toward the end of the novel.
Lilly knew there was a difference between blacks and whites and she had always been taught blacks were ignorant and whites were superior. When Lilly met August and realized how educated she was she had to deal with her prejudice thoughts. She meets Zach and has romantic feelings for him and realizes she must once a gain deal with racism. Zach and Lilly both agree it wouldn't work because of so much racial tension in the South.
Life was hard for the African Americans in the 1960's.The African Americans could not sit at the same lunch counter or use the same rest room as white people. The American people, blacks and whites loved Martin Luther King, Jr., for standing up for the rights of African Americans in a nonviolent way. A quote from Martin Luther King he stated, " Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity and hate destroys a man's sense of values
and his objectivity, It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.( King) He gave people the strength to have faith and hope that racism would end, blacks and whites would have peace with each other and make the world a better place to live .
The black Madonna is an example of Symbolism in the Novel. "She inspires spiritual strength in the female characters in the novel, and has been connected with the solidarity of the divine mother with those who are oppressed", according to Jennie S. Knight.
Sue Kidd describes the Black Madonna as, "Her darkness has great power in it and "She becomes a motivation for women who need to look for independent spirit, for women conjuring up their own strength and their own power, being their own authority". (Kidd). The story is that the statue turned black from all the candles burning around it for so many years.
The Madonna tells you to look deep in to your heart and don't run from your pain but to forgive and it will make you stronger as you live through the situation. Though some people believed the Madonna turned black from the wood that changed through out the years as it aged. Eckhart Meister says: "All the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves."  "To give God the name "Black Madonna" is to honor blackness and all people of color and to get over an excessive whiteness of soul and culture." (Meister)
The Black Madonna is of the Catholic Faith. It is faith verses reason why people worship statues. All religions have standards and a religious aspect of their own. The Black Madonna tells us not to have an oversimplified image of people and to not be a racist. August refers to the Black Madonna as she says to Lily, "You see, everybody needs a God who looks like them, Lily."(140-141)
The theme in "The Secret Life of the Bees" comes from the quote "Most people don't have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. (148) ""Bees have a secret live we don't know anything about."(148).People have secrets in their life. There are parts of people's life that they don't want to explain to anyone. So it is kept a secret and sometimes it is better to be left unsaid and kept deep within the heart. People can only see what's on the surface, they can't see in someone's heart. The bees represent people coming together and working within that community like a beehive as a family.
In the Bible, honey is used for food; for example, the honeycomb was the sweetest and most valuable. Proverbs 16:24 (New International Version) Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
Proverbs 24:13 My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: In the land of CannanExodus 3:8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.Leviticus 20:24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.
"The bee works hard and tirelessly, not for himself, but for the swarm and has a strength and knowledge of materials that cannot be duplicated". (Allen Roberts, p. 74 )."He works in complete cooperation, and without dissention, with his fellow bees while he protects the Queen, refuses admittance to enemies, builds, makes honey, and lives in a society ruled by law." ( Roberts, p. 74)
"The central religious image in The Bees is the honey, a metaphor for healing", in ancient times, "bees were considered a symbol of the soul, of death and rebirth" and "honey was regarded as a magical, sacred substance" (Judith Hebb). Some medieval hymns "referred to the Virgin Mary as the beehive, and Christ as the honey that flowed from her."(Hebb).'In some stories, the Virgin Mary was associated with the queen bee, and in ancient Greece the goddess Demeter was referred to as the queen bee, and her priestesses were the worker bees, who served her" ( Kidd).
"The honey house is Lily's first home where she had felt safe since her mother's death."(Gresham). Lilly felt at ease at the honey house as if it had a calming effect on her. She felt like that was the place she should be at and she at first thought her mother had been there and later she found out she had been there. "Anger overcame her, the thought of her mother leaving her to come here and she took it out on the honey jars and threw them up against the wall."(Graham). Lilly's mother had actually come back for her, the day her mother died.
August gave Lilly a box with a few of her mother's things in it. (Bees) August gave Lilly a photograph of her mother. In the photograph is her mother holding her and smiling. Lilly realizes her mother did love her. There was a whale pin in the box; her father had given it to her mother years before she was born. (272)
Lilly is ready to move on with her life. She has the answers she was looking for about her mother. She pins on the whale pin and walks out of the honey house a stronger person. The Boatwright sisters met her spiritual and physical needs and taught her the meaning of life through the bees. Lilly did not struggle with shame, or guilt, any longer. August said" You have to find a mother inside yourself, even if we have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside". (2)Lilly gained the love of three mothers instead of one. They came together and made a family and home. "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." (299)
Sue monk Kidd, is the author of the secret life of the bees .This story was her first published novel. It gives a brief biography of Sue Monk. Sue Monk was raised in a small town in Georgia .She loved to read and living in a small town influenced her writing. Readers ask if Sue Kidd was treated as badly as T.Ray treated Lilly .Sue monk Kidd had never heard of the punishment of kneeling on the grits. Its something she made up in the story .She had a wonderful child hood.
It took her three years to complete the novel. (Kidd)She tells of a story about the bees in the wall as a child. (Kidd) She remembered her mother cleaning up honey that came out of the walls also she recalls hearing the sound of the bee in the house. She didn't know anything about bees,
so she had to educate herself about bees and she visited an apiary and was taught everything she couldn't learn from books about bees. (Kidd)