Secret Life of Bees Thematic Interpretation

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Thematic Interpretation

Monk Kidd, Sue | The Secret Life of Bees | Harmondsworth, England: Viking Penguin, 2002

In the novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd there were many themes, motifs and symbols that presented their selves throughout the story. The two themes that stood out to me in this book were the irrationality of racism and the power of the female community. These themes had a major significance in the overall message of the book. If I have learned anything from reading this novel it is that racism is a weakness of the mind. As humans, we learn to love but are taught to hate.

It is easy to infer that racism will have a significant part in the story just by reading the first chapter. The setting plays a very important role in interpreting the theme. The novel is set in South Carolina in 1964 during this time civil rights movements were well underway. The racial tension is very apparent throughout the story line. 14 year-old Lily Owens was living with her neglectful and abusive father T-Ray and their black maid Rosaleen. Rosaleen was the closest thing Lily had to knowing a black woman. Even though she was almost like a surrogate mother to her, Lily couldn’t help but see that things would always be different between them because of their color. Rosaleen was not very educated and Lil would often times teach her what she was learning in school. However it is not until Lily runs away from home and meets the Boatwright sisters and truly sees the irrationality of racism.

When August Boatwright takes Rosaleen and Lily in she begins to learn about the sisters and their place in life. One night as Lily is lying in her cot she says “...All I could think was August is so intelligent, so cultured, and I was surprised by this. That’s what let me know I had some prejudice buried inside me.” This thought in her head had opened her heart and mind to see the kind of women the Boatwright sisters are. She now knew that black women could be...
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