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Books

Confidence, Courage, And Strength In The Secret Life Of Bees

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

The novel entitled The Secret Life of Bees is a tale of a young girl’s enduring trials and tribulations in her life. The novel is a critically acclaimed best seller with a film adaptation to showcase this in a visual light. With a novel of this stature, it brings many questions relating to the origin. The author of the novel, Sue Monk Kidd, plays into a history of segregation and race to ignite this novel to its full potential. Specifically, 50s and 60s events from the Rosa Parks boycott to the Martin Luther King Jr. march relate closely to the theme of the novel. In 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man, prompting the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Many rallied in support of Rosa Parks, and as a result the bus system had fewer customers. This is a prime example to what The Secret Life of Bees stands for in confidence power, and equal rights. Along with her background, Kidd has taken from these events to create her novel. With Kidd’s historical knowledge combined with her personal history, she conveys a message of confidence, courage, and strength through her characters.

Kidd was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia, which deeply influenced The Secret Life of Bees. The novel takes place in a similar situation, in the segregated South in the sixties, specifically located in South Carolina. Kidd lived in Africa for a year, and also wrote stories on those experiences. A big question of her life can be called a spiritual quest and the articulation of that experience. This experience most likely prompted her to not fall in the spell of segregation. While her upbringing was centered around it, she never entertained the idea of segregation. Kidd showed her passion in the subject with The Secret Life Of Bees. Kidd observed the many years of slavery that were sometimes disregarded, explaining that when she wrote the novel, it was heavily influenced with civil rights. She combines her view of race with her view of women empowerment and focuses on it heavily within the novel. Growing up, what resonated with her the most were stories from the black female domestics in her parents’ and grandparents’ homes. The Secret Life of Bees matches so closely to her story that it possibly could have been written as if she were the main character, in her point of view. Kidd’s experience as a young girl in Georgia in the 50s and 60s root from these ideas. Growing up in her time period was socially telling, as there were groups of people that were viewed as substantially less than others. It is evident that historical, especially racial events heavily influenced her writing.

Within The Secret Life Of Bees, the characters strongly reflect the theme of the novel. Lily Owens takes centerfield with the themes of confidence and courage. As the main character, she goes through many changes that build up her personal confidence and courage. At the start of the novel, Lily can be described as gentle, quiet, and weak. The reader is introduced to Lily in this way as she says “People who think dying is the worst thing don’t know a thing about life”. The reader can slowly see how she changes, and her progression as she explains “I sat there and studied the darkness, trying to see through it to some silver of light”. Rosaleen, Lily’s nanny and first friend really pushes Lily and puts this change into effect. These women show Lily what she was missing in powerful female role models and give her this confidence and courage that she was missing. She starts to realize the change for the better and reflects on it to herself “I loved the idea of bees having a secret life, just like the one I was living” (Kidd, 148). Not surprisingly, as the novel takes place during segregation, these women all are black, while Lily is white. Lily is shown not only woman empowerment but understands equal rights through these woman. Through examples like Rosaleen’s arrest, and the events at the house she escapes too, she slowly starts to mature and truly come of age. “The confidence she gains from helping to protect Rosaleen fuels her desire for a healthier environment for both of them”. When she finally finds that strength she uses it as a way to show power. She expresses “I am sick to death of you yelling at me. I am not death. I am only stupid for calling you up”. This event shows Lily’s progress as she was away. She no longer is afraid, she is standing up for herself, and shows her confidence and courage.

As the novel progresses, not only does Lily gain in confidence and courage, but the reader can see her progression in strength as well. The turning point for Lily is seen on her 14th birthday as she realizes how sheltered her life has been and wants to break out of that environment. She starts out frail, scared and weak because of her father, she ends strong, resisting his power. The root of these characteristics may likely be traced back to her father, T. Ray, an abuser who has instilled fear and stripped her from the idea of proper love. His power is escalated as she is without a mother, later finding out that she was the cause of her death. Hebert explains, “Lily transforms from a reticent girl, suffering the verbal and physical abuse of her father, haunted by guilt, to a confident young woman who willingly stands up for herself and explains that she does not plan to live with her father anymore”. When Lily branches out and escapes T. Ray’s stronghold she finally gains some power. With the absence of T. Ray, Lily has nowhere to go but up. Characters like August, Rosaleen, and June show to be foils of Lily. They all show ways of strength, empowerment, and determination. These characters stand as an example to Lily, as role models to her. With the help of these three and another with the name of May, there grows an obvious shift in Lily.

A young girl enduring trials and tribulations in her life sets out to embark on a journey of character development to come of age. The memories that haunted her from the past no longer control her character and the way she acts. By the end of the novel she is no longer the same character that she was as the beginning of the novel. From her fragile start, to her confident end, women and racial empowerment really drives it home. She recognizes this influence by the end of the story and shines light on it by saying “I have more mothers than any eight girls off the street. They are the moons shining over me”. This quote show the influence that these characters have had on her, and in a way she is thanking them for their life changing effect. Through events from the author’s life and history, the theme of confidence, courage, and strength is found throughout the novel. 

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