The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 4th, 2020


Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Secret Life of Bees throws light on the some of the significant changes underwent by the American society in the early sixties. Much attention should be paid to the Civil Rights Movement which was aimed at empowering African-American citizens. To some degree, this issue attracts the attention of the writer. In particular, the author illustrates the legacies of racism and their impacts on the community. One of the main consequences that should be considered is the dehumanization of an individual only because he/she is black.

This novel incorporates several characters who are willing to stand against the racist norms or attitudes that deprive a person of his/her dignity. In particular, one can consider such characters as Rosaleen and Zach. To a great extent, they can be regarded as individuals who are not willing to accept injustice, even knowing that this protest can endanger their own wellbeing. Apart from that, these characters understand that very few people will support them.

Moreover, their actions highlight the brutal nature of racism which can produce disastrous effects on the community and separate individuals. This paper is aimed at discussing the behavior of these people in greater detail.

The moral courage of the two characters

It is possible to describe important scenes that can emphasize the moral strength of these characters. In particular, one can look at Rosaleen’s behavior when she confronts people who are reluctant to accept the idea that African-American people can be allowed to vote. They try to taunt her believing that they can do it with impunity. In turn, Rosaleen spills her “snuff juice” on their shoes (Kidd 32). In other words, it was a chewing-tobacco juice. As a result, she is arrested.

To a great extent, this behavior can be explained by the fact that Rosaleen reaches a certain breaking point at which a person can no longer tolerate dehumanization. Overall, Rosaleen knows that governmental institutions are not likely to support her. Nevertheless, she is willing to withstand this encounter. To a great extent, readers can empathize with this character. Additionally, one should bear in mind that only Lily is willing to support her. This is one of the aspects that can be distinguished.

This scene is also important because it indicates the cruelty of racism. In particular, people, who accept this ideology, try to victimize individuals who are usually perceived as very vulnerable. To some degree, Rosaleen is regarded as the victim who can be mistreated without facing any risk of punishment. Therefore, such behavior can be associated with cowardice. Nevertheless, their expectations were disappointed because Rosaleen was ready to protest against this humiliation.

Moreover, this encounter shows that racism can force a person to act in a violent manner, because he/she cannot protect his/her rights or dignity in any other way. This is one of the details that should be taken into account. Furthermore, one should keep in mind that Rosaleen is arrested, but little attention is paid to the reasons why she chose to act in a certain way. She is expected to apologize for her actions, but officials do not even consider the idea that three men could insult Rosaleen. Thus, this case emphasizes the destructiveness or racism.

Additionally, it is possible to speak about Zach Taylor who chooses to become arrested, rather than betray his friends. Again one should bear in mind that in the early sixties, people like Zach were more likely to be suspected by the police, only because they were black. This issue is important for illustrating the injustice caused by racist attitudes. Zach is arrested because he does not want to turn in one of his friends. In his opinion, this behavior is not acceptable from an ethical standpoint. This case illustrates Zach’s distrust of existing governmental institutions.

This is why he does not want to cooperate with the police. Certainly, one can say that the behavior of this character can also be explained by the fact that adolescents can often be distrustful of governmental institutions, including police. This is one of the details that should be taken into consideration. Nevertheless, Zach’s motivation can be explained mostly by the desire to remain a loyal friend.

This case can also be related to racism because Zach and his friends are suspected only due to the color of their skin. People, who arrest them, do not want to consider the idea that a white man could commit a minor offence. In contrast, black teenagers were more likely to be treated like suspects. This is one of the aspects that can be distinguished because it is useful for understanding the social environment in which the novel is set.


Admittedly, these characters differ from one another. In particular, Rosaleen is much more familiar with racism and she understands how destructive this ideology is. In contrast, Zach is relatively young, and he does not believe that these biases and prejudices can affect his life. This is one of the distinctions that should be taken into account. Nevertheless, each of them is not ready to accept injustice caused by racism.

To some degree, these people can be viewed as role models for the readers because they are ready to speak against injustice, even though these individuals understand that they will not be supported by the state. To a great extent, they have an innate sense of justice.


Thus, one can argue that these characters play an important role in this book, even though they cannot be described as protagonists. Each of them is ready to take risks in order to protest against injustice. Moreover, they understand that such actions can pose a threat to their own wellbeing. To a great extent, this behavior can illustrate their moral strength. Apart from that, the actions of these people highlight the adverse effects of racism on the community since this ideology is aimed at depriving a person of his/her human status. These are the main details that should be considered by the readers of this novel.

Works Cited

Kidd, Sue. The Secret Life of Bees, New York: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.

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