Evolution Of The Main Character in The Secret Life of Bees
Lily’s Change of Views
“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”(Kidd 299). In the novel The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Lily Owen’s perspective on life changes greatly throughout the book. In the beginning of the novel, Lily has some prejudice towards black people because T-Ray taught her that growing up. She also does not know much about her mother, except that she accidentally shot and killed her when she was young. By the end of the book, Lily’s views on her mother and races change greatly. Through the course of the novel, Lily changes in many ways, demonstrating that sometimes a different point of view can change one’s perspective of life.
The primary way Lily changes is that she learns more about her mother. When Lily first arrives at the Boatwright’s, she cannot tell them the truth about her life and her mother. She also lies and says that her father was killed in a tractor accident last month and that she would be sent to a home if she did not find anyone to stay with. This leaves her confused and curious about her mother’s background. Finally, she approaches August to reveal the truth, and August admits that she knew all along. August proceeds to tell her everything about her mother. This causes Lily to lose some of the guilt she has from killing her mother because August comforts her and assures her that it was an accident and that she is still lovable. Right after Lily reveals to August that she accidentally killed her mother, August says, “ That’s a terrible, terrible thing for you to live with. But you’re not unlovable. Even if you did accidentally kill her, you are still the most dear, most lovable girl I know”(Kidd 242).
August’s words help Lily to feel relieved because she felt all the guilt piled up on her, causing her to feel an array of emotions, specifically that she was unlovable and unwanted. August’s words help soothe her worries and the quote suggests she is telling her to put that accident in the past because everyone still loves her the same. During this conversation, Lily also learns about T-Ray and Deborah’s relationship. August tells Lily that T-Ray used to be different, that he was brave and treated Deborah like a princess, and Lily cannot believe that they are talking about the same person. Overall, Lily learned a lot about T-Ray that she was unaware of. Their long talk helps Lily to change because she gets to see a new perspective on T-Ray, she learns more about her mother’s background and she is able to feel loved despite the accident.
Throughout the novel, not only do Lily’s views on her mother change, but her perspective on race changes too. When Lily first meets Zach, she suggests that he be a professional football player. She makes this assumption after Zach says he does not have much of a future since he’s negro. He tells her he aspires to be a lawyer instead. Lily argues that there is no such thing as a Negro lawyer and that you have to hear of something before you can be it. Zach gets angry at this point and says to imagine what has never been. This is a turning point where Lily realizes that he could be right, that someone should not have to follow what everyone else does and the rules of society, but go their own way and do what they want. Also, at this same time in the book, Lily is surprised because she is attracted to Zach. Lily narrates,
If he was shocked over me being white, I was shocked over him being handsome. At my school they made fun of colored people’s lips and noses. I myself had laughed at these jokes, hoping to fit in. Now I wished I could pen a letter to my school to be read at opening assembly that would tell them how wrong we’d all been. You should see Zachary Taylor, I’d say. (Kidd 116)
This passage highlights how she realizes how wrong she had been about black people and being prejudiced. She realizes that even though he is not white she can still be attracted to him. At that point, since she has realized that everything she knew and learned from T-Ray was not true, it opens her eyes and allows her to be more accepting of everything in life. Lily’s change towards race helps her out because it makes her more aware of the world around her and makes her change in other ways, too.
As a final point, Lily finally feels loved and accepted at the end of the novel. When she lives with T-Ray and Rosaleen, she feels like T-Ray doesn’t care about her at all. However, when she is at the Boatwrights she finally feels at home and loved. When Lily is standing in the driveway watching T-Ray leave, she turns around to see all of the Boatwrights standing there, waiting for her. At that moment, she comes to the realization that they care about her and they want her to stay with them. She even says that she can feel all their love waiting for her. This is a huge change for Lily because she has never felt loved in her life; she has always felt useless with T-Ray and just kind of ‘there’. At the Boatwright’s, August and the sisters welcome her and help her fit in. At the beginning of the novel, Lily is sitting at the dinner table asking T-Ray for a charm bracelet and he never gives an answer:
“I started to say, So then, what about the bracelet? but I could see he’d already given his answer, and it caused a kind of sorrow to rise in me that felt fresh and tender and had nothing, really, to do with the bracelet. I think now it was sorrow for the sound of his fork scraping the plate, the way it swelled in the distance between us, how I was not even in the room”(Kidd 22).
At the end of the sentence, when Lily says the part about how she was not even in the room, it captures the feeling that T-Ray gives her, which is that she is unwanted. She feels ignored in this scene, as if her request for a charm bracelet did not matter to him and he did not even feel the need to answer. This is a big comparison to the end of the novel when she feels all the love from the Boatwright sisters. The change in Lily’s feelings of being loved is a huge and important change because it makes her a more comfortable and loved person.
A different perspective towards life can influence one’s point of view on life is something that describes Lily’s vast changes throughout the book. Lily changes in multiple ways in this novel, and all of them allow her to become a better person. All of these changes are very big also, and are hard for her to make happen, but they do. By the end of the novel, Lily has learned more about her mother and is able to understand the situation, she no longer has prejudice towards black people and she finally feels loved and wanted, which she never did when she lived with T-Ray.
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